SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared a stunning photograph of the next Starship prototype that will soar above Starbase Texas. The stainless-steel vehicle is Starship Serial Number 16 (SN16). He also shared a photo of the new ‘Starbase’ sign the company placed outside of the South Texas facility along Highway-4. It appears that SpaceX completed Starship SN16’s assembly this week and could transport it to the launch pad down the road soon. “Ship 16 & Booster 2, Starbase Highbay,” Musk captioned the photo. Booster 2 is a Super Heavy rocket prototype that will undergo testing too. The booster is needed to propel the spacecraft to orbit, it enables it to conserve fuel. SpaceX targets to conduct the first Starship orbital flight this Summer, no earlier than July 1st.
Ship 16 & Booster 2, Starbase Highbay pic.twitter.com/IUuidOw9ym— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 28, 2021
SpaceX teams are building the multiple test vehicles simultaneously. The first orbital flight will be conducted by a vehicle identified as SN20, which is also under assembly. A Federal Communication’s Commission (FCC) filing says SpaceX plans to launch the Starship vehicle from Boca Chica Beach in South Texas and land it off the coast of Kauai in Hawaii during the first orbital flight. The company is in the process of building an orbital-class launch tower for the gigantic vehicle. Teams already started to stack sections of the tower, pictured below. The orbital-class tower will be 469-feet-tall, feature a launch mount, and a giant arm designed to catch the Super Heavy booster by its grid fins upon return from space. “The tower will be constructed out of structural steel trusses to allow the mechanical arms to lift vehicles,” the filing says.
The third launch tower section is lowering into position. Can't get over how huge this is already! pic.twitter.com/aGREQCOflp— Cosmic Perspective (@considercosmos) May 28, 2021
Musk previously said they might attempt to fly Starship SN15 a second time after it became the first vehicle to successfully land without exploding. However, workers removed SN15’s three Raptor engines and then proceeded to transport it from a test mount on the launch pad to the assembly site, so, it is unclear if SN15 will fly again. It is likely that engineers will move on to prepare Starship SN16 for a high-altitude flight test. It will be the sixth prototype of the spacecraft that will be launched into an altitude of approximately 10-kilometers. Each test flight provides engineers with valuable insight towards the spacecraft’s development. SpaceX aims to create a fully-reusable Starship that will be capable of transporting one hundred passengers on long-duration missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. You can watch SpaceX Starship development progress Live 24/7 in the video linked below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
SpaceX Starbase Launch Facility
Featured Image Source: Elon Musk via Twitter