SpaceX has transported a new Starship prototype to the launch pad to embark on a rigorous test campaign with orbit in sight. The stainless-steel spacecraft, designated as Starship SN25 (serial number twenty-five), will undergo testing at the Starbase facility in preparation for the next attempt at an orbital flight. On May 18, the company announced that “Ship 25 has been moved to a suborbital pad at Starbase for an upcoming static fire of its six Raptor engines.” The vehicle was transported from the factory to the launch pad along State Highway 4 road at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas.
Around four weeks ago (on April 20), SpaceX conducted the first-ever fully-integrated Starship flight test. The powerful Super Heavy rocket, equipped with at least 30 out of 33 Raptor V2 engines, soared into the sunny sky and reached a max altitude of nearly 40 kilometers. The objective was for the rocket to propel Starship to orbit and for it to reach orbital velocity, enabling it to circle Earth and complete the mission with an ocean landing off the coast of Hawaii. However, during the flight, the rocket encountered an unexpected issue with the engines and began tumbling off course. To ensure safety, SpaceX activated the Flight Termination System (FTS) around 4 minutes into the flight, resulting in the midair explosion of the vehicle. Although the mission did not achieve its intended outcome, it represents a significant step forward in the spacecraft’s development and highlights the ongoing pursuit of its ambitious goals. Engineers were able to collect enough data during the flight to improve the next Starship prototype.
Multiple Boca Chica residents operate a set of remote livestream cameras to document SpaceX Starbase activities. They shared a video of a Starship tank explosion this week. “It appears that SpaceX may have performed a Flight Termination test on the Booster 6 test article. This rupture occurred near the common dome. The test article was filled with water and likely pressurized to flight loads. No way to confirm the details yet,” they shared via Twitter, linked below. On April 29, SpaceX founder Chief Engineer Elon Musk had a ‘Twitter Spaces’ chat where he shared that one of their objectives for the second flight attempt to orbit is to ensure the FTS triggers quicker. “The longest item on that is probably requalification of the Flight Termination System [...] it took way too long to rupture the tanks,” said Musk. He shared that it took around 40 seconds and that it should have exploded quicker to terminate the flight. It appears that engineers have started testing the FTS by intentionally causing the explosion of a stainless-steel tank, video below.
It appears that SpaceX may have performed a Flight Termination test on the Booster 6 test article. This rupture occurred near the common dome. The test article was filled with water and likely pressurized to flight loads.— Zack Golden (@CSI_Starbase) May 15, 2023
No way to confirm the details yet.
🎥: @LabPadre pic.twitter.com/7kM35ZEeVy
Up next, will be the static-fire test of Starship SN25, during which engineers will briefly ignite the six Raptor engines to evaluate their performance. Followed by proof testing, and similar testing will also be performed on the Super Heavy booster. If testing progresses smoothly in the following weeks, an orbital flight could potentially take place in approximately 2 months. On April 27, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson testified at the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee regarding NASA's Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 request, which includes an annual budget allocation to fund the agency's space exploration projects. During the meeting, Nelson expressed optimism about SpaceX's capability to successfully land NASA Artemis III astronauts on the Moon by 2025, despite the recent unsuccessful Starship flight attempt to reach orbit.
Nelson shared that SpaceX assured it is working to rapidly repair the damage the Raptor engines’ force caused at the Starbase launch pad to perform the next orbital flight attempt soon. –“I can report to you, as of today, SpaceX is still saying that they think it will take about at least two months to rebuild the launch pad and, concurrently, about two months to have their second vehicle ready to launch,” Nelson said at the House committee, “Now understand that the explosion, that’s not a big downer in the way that SpaceX does things. They are hardware-rich meaning they’ve got a lot of those rockets ready to go. And that’s their modus operandi. They launch. If something goes wrong they figure out what it is, they go back, and they launch it again. So I anticipate that we will see a number of launches from Boca Chica, Texas,” he said.
Ship 25 moved to a suborbital pad at Starbase for an upcoming static fire of its six Raptor engines pic.twitter.com/5pPGl0SlkV— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 18, 2023
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Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
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.