SpaceX Is Already Building The First Starship Test Vehicle That Will Launch To Orbit

Evelyn Arevalo by Evelyn Arevalo July 23, 2021

SpaceX Is Already Building The First Starship Test Vehicle That Will Launch To Orbit

Featured Image Source: Starship Render Created By @ErcXspace via Twitter

SpaceX is already building the first Starship test vehicle that will launch to orbit from Starbase Texas this year. The stainless-steel prototype is called ‘Starship SN20,’ it will propel to orbit atop of Super Heavy Booster 4. On Thursday, space enthusiasts captured close-up photographs of assembled portions of Starship SN20 being moved into the rocket factory’s mid-bay, pictured below. SpaceX first builds sections then stacks them to form the gigantic launch vehicle at the Boca Chica assembly facility. The Starship spacecraft is 160-feet-tall and Super Heavy rocket stands at around 230-feet-high. This year, we will see how massive the launch vehicle will be when SpaceX stacks both vehicles for the first time ahead of the debut orbital flight test.

 

 

The company plans an incredible flight attempt to orbit. Starship SN20 will be propelled to orbit from Boca Chica Beach powered by 33 methane-fueled Raptor engines. The booster will return to conduct a propulsive landing in Texas as Starship SN20 continues its voyage to orbit nearly completing a full trip around Earth before returning back through the atmosphere over Hawaii. Approximately 90 minutes after liftoff, Starship SN20 will land off the northwest coast of Kauai with a soft ocean landing, according to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing submitted by SpaceX.

An orbital launch tower is actively under construction to support the orbital flight test. However, SpaceX is still pending authorization by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to build the giant tower and also pending an environmental review to launch Super Heavy from Boca Chica. "SpaceX is proposing a 469' [feet] tall launch tower with 10' [feet] lightning rod to lift its new rocket and booster on the launch mount, and to catch the super-heavy booster upon return from launch. The tower will be constructed out of structural steel trusses to allow the mechanical arms to lift vehicles,” the company told the FAA in a filing. “This new structure will be located at SpaceX's Launch Site. The structure will be approx. 0.5 miles from the beach, and within 2800' of USFWS [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] property. Nearby airfields include the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport.”

Company officials said the orbital flight could occur in a few months from now. “We are going to do our best to do an orbital [Starship] launch attempt in the next few months,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said in June at the Mobile World Congress. “Often if I want to see what the latest [progress on Starship] is, I just go on the internet because ... members of the public have telephoto lenses pointed at our vehicle,” he said. “Certainly we'll have ... an orbital-capable booster and orbital-capable ship and the orbital launch site all be ready within the next month or so.” To prepare for the flight, engineers are conducting ground tests of a Super Heavy prototype, Booster 3. This past week, they performed a cryogenic proof test and static-firing of three Raptor engines. These ground tests allow engineers to assess the vehicle’s structural integrity and engine performance, among a variety of technical things to improve the construction of Booster 4.

SpaceX is working on a tight schedule to develop the spacecraft in less than three years. The first crewed Starship mission, called ‘Dear Moon,’ is scheduled for the year 2023. Dear Moon will launch Yusaku Maezawa, alongside eight civilian passengers on a voyage around the Moon. Maezawa invited the public to participate in a contest to win a seat aboard his space adventure. He will select 8 out of 1 million talented individuals from around the world who participated. On July 16, Maezawa shared a video showcasing some of the contest participants that could potentially travel to space, the most notable participant is world-renowned DJ Steve Aoki [video linked below].

Featured Image Source: Starship Render Created By @ErcXspace via Twitter

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