Image Source: Elon Musk
SpaceX is working hard to transform humans into a multi-planet species, the company has day and night work shifts focused on the development of their next generation rocket-spaceship duo that will be capable of carrying 100 passengers and tons of cargo on long-duration voyages towards the moon and Mars. Starship will become the world's most powerful spaceship-rocket duo ever built. The company is rapidly making progress on the construction of Starship SN1, a new prototype that will conduct a series of test flights above Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville, Texas. The Chief Engineer and founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, shared a photograph of their new assembly building at Boca Chica, captioned "Improved Accommodations."
Improved Accommodations pic.twitter.com/iRBK2yIfd7— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 22, 2020
SpaceX aims to build as many as 20 flight vehicle prototypes of Starship. During the vehicles' testing process engineers will incorporate some minor changes needed towards improving the craft. Musk said, "We’re now building flight design of Starship SN1, but each SN will have at least minor improvements, at least through SN20 or so of Starship V1.0."
Flight is hopefully 2 to 3 months away— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 28, 2019
Musk previously stated that Starship SN2, the second prototype out of 20 in the V1.0 flight series, will be assembled inside an enclosed environment due to weather conditions that could affect the welding process, "Moving to an enclosed (fairly) clean room environment for SN2 in January, although, unlike aluminum, stainless steel welding is not super sensitive. Our main issue here in Boca is that it can get very windy, which affects weld arc & steel melt pool."
Moving to an enclosed (fairly) clean room environment for SN2 in Jan, although, unlike aluminum, stainless steel welding is not super sensitive. Our main issue here in Boca is that it can get very windy, which affects weld arc & steel melt pool.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 30, 2019
Boca Chica is a beach zone with no large buildings to block air flow. Sometimes winds coming from the ocean are very strong, can surpass 50 miles per hour. The coastline has been struck by hurricanes in the past too, so SpaceX new assembly structure should be a great accommodation for teams to work on the first flight prototypes of Starship when weather conditions interfere.
For the past couple of weeks, engineers and manufacturers have been building Starship's liquid oxygen header tanks and a shiny stainless-steel nose cone. They also performed some strength and pressurization tests on a couple of dome tanks to check how they could make the weld stronger before incorporating the tanks to the Starship SN1 craft. Last night, Musk shared that SpaceX teams and suppliers are rapidly building Starship, he said:
"Yeah, we just finished two more propellant domes. SpaceX team & supporting suppliers are doing amazing work ramping Starship production."
Yeah, we just finished two more propellant domes. SpaceX team & supporting suppliers are doing amazing work ramping Starship production.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 22, 2020
Starship will be powered by cryogenic methane and liquid oxygen, the domes are part of craft's internal structure where it holds propellant. Starships in the SN series, will be the first prototypes that will conduct high altitude test flights, including an orbital flight attempt. SpaceX teams have finished constructing two new stainless-steel propellant tanks, these should be strong enough to hold highly pressurized propellant and make the craft strong enough to endure extreme forces during flight.
Recently, on January 10, SpaceX conducted a test on a dome tank to check how much pressure the steel structure and welding technique could withstand. During the test they intentionally pressurized the bulk head dome until it exploded. This planned pressurize-until-explosion test was intentionally preformed to ensure the assembly of all the welds and design structure of the tanks are strong enough for Starship SN1 flight design. Musk shared some details about the test results that day, "Dome to barrel weld made it to 7.1 bar, which is pretty good as ~6 bar is needed for orbital flight. With more precise parts & better welding conditions, we should reach ~8.5 bar, which is the 1.4 factor of safety needed for crewed flight." Now with the new building structure, welding conditions are guaranteed to improve.
Musk said that Starship SN1's first test flight will take place in Texas in approximately 2 or 3 months, so a fully assembled Starship SN1 prototype could be ready sometime in March. The City of Brownsville website announced some road closures at SpaceX Boca Chica, which usually indicates the company will perform vital work, that may include further testing on the spacecraft's parts. On January 23 and 24, a portion of Highway 4 near the entrance to Boca Chica Beach will be closed between 11:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. CST and on January 25, the beach itself will be closed temporarily from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. CST (local time).
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About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.