Featured Image Source: Elon Musk
SpaceX is building the first flight prototypes of Starship that will one day take 100 passengers to Mars, at their launch site facility in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville, Texas. Elon Musk, founder and chief engineer of SpaceX, worked alongside SpaceX teams until midnight local time (February 9). He shared a photograph of their progress, captioned, "Back at Boca." Currently two flight test vehicles of Starship are under construction referred to as Starship SN1 and Starship SN2. Musk said:
"First two domes in frame are for SN2, third is SN1 thrust dome."
Back in Boca pic.twitter.com/RjiWpW28PT— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 9, 2020
They are really ramping up Starship production, they started building stainless-steel dome parts for two Starships! SN1 is scheduled to be completed soon, according to a recent FCC filing they aim to conduct a test flight of 20 kilometers sometime between March 16 and September. Though, Musk said early January that he aimed to conduct the first test flight in 2 or 3 months so that flight could take place in March or April. Last Thursday (February 6), SpaceX held a Starship Career Day, a job fair to hire about 40 employees to fill up four work shifts for 24/7 operations meant to finish building the flight vehicles plus surrounding building structures, both at the assembly facility and launch site. Specifically, the company was mostly looking for welders for hands-on operations. Read more: Elon Musk talks about Starship at the SpaceX Career Day event, says Boca Chica has good vibes [VIDEO]
Last month, teams conducted a cryogenic pressurization test that aimed to test a propellant dome tank's weld technique strength. Musk previously said that dome tanks are the craft's most difficult part to build because these domes have to be light enough to not add too much weight to the craft but strong enough to support internal hardware, highly pressurized propellant, as well as flight stress, among other factors. Read more: SpaceX conducts 'destructive' cryogenic strength test on a Starship dome tank at Boca Chica [VIDEO].
The Starship test vehicles will be made of shiny stainless-steel, stand 50 meters tall with 9 meters in diameter, and powered by 3 to 6 Raptor engines. It is likely Starship SN1 will use 3 Raptors during the 20 kilometer test flight soon. The final version of Starship will feature 6 Raptor engines, 3 sea level raptors, for atmospheric flight and 3 vacuum optimized Raptors, for propulsion in space. The Raptor engine could produce more than 200 tons of thrust at full throttle. Last year, the rocket company conducted a 150 meter flight test with a scaled-down craft called Starhopper that featured only 1 Raptor engine. These engines are very powerful, they managed to successfully fly and land the craft (video below). This year, they will test a full scale prototype of Starship.
Raptor engines are new kind of rocket engines fueled by cryogenic methane and liquid oxygen, manufactured by SpaceX. Engineers developed the Raptor with the idea to develop a propellant plant on Mars to refuel Starship. Since, water-ice is found under top soil and carbon dioxide is found in the Red Planet's atmosphere, so, future Martians could extract these to convert it into methane and liquid oxygen by conducting electrolysis plus the Sabatier process. Starship's Raptor engines will enable Mars settlers to have the option to return to Earth if they choose to.
Work is expected to increase pace at Boca Chica, especially after adding more employees to the workforce. A series of test flights will occur this year at SpaceX Boca Chica soon, all in an effort to turn humanity into a spacefaring civilization. Exciting!