Featured Image Source: @NASASpaceflight via Twitter / YouTube
Making life multi-planetary is SpaceX’s goal. Engineers are in the process of developing Starship, a spacecraft that will enable life on Mars. The founder and Chief engineer at SpaceX Elon Musk aims to send the first humans to the Red Planet by the year 2024. Starship will be a giant stainless-steel vehicle capable of transporting one hundred passengers and tons of cargo. Musk says Starship is “the key to making life multi-planetary and protecting the light of consciousness.” He recently told SpaceX employees Starship development is a top priority. SpaceX has a Starship factory in South Texas at Boca Chica Beach.
Teams are manufacturing multiple Starship prototypes simultaneously to test out. The prototypes are referred to by serial number, SN. They conducted a cryogenic pressure test of the Starship SN5 prototype at the launch pad on Wednesday, July 1st. The stainless-steel SN5 vehicle was subjected to conditions it would experience during flight. The structure was filled with sub-cooled liquid nitrogen while a thrust simulator system imitates the force of a Raptor engine by pressing at the bottom of the vehicle. This test is to determine if the vehicle can withstand highly pressurized propellant and high-stress of flight.
On July 4th, SpaceX teams did not slow down during the U.S. Independence Day celebration, they worked and installed a Raptor engine to the Starship SN5 test vehicle. The Raptor is a full-flow, staged combustion rocket engine, fueled by sub-chilled methane and liquid oxygen. This unique engine is designed and manufactured by SpaceX; It was developed with Mars in mind. Future Mars explorers will have the ability to create a propellant plant on the Red Planet to refuel Starship’s return to Earth. Methane and liquid oxygen can be created on Mars by taking carbon dioxide from the planet’s atmosphere and digging water-ice to synthesize fuel through the Sabatier process and electrolysis.
A Boca Chica resident who lives less than 4-miles away from the launch pad documents the vehicles' construction progress for NASASpaceflight. They captured videos of Starship SN5’s Raptor engine installation, shown below.
After the Raptor completes inspections, it will undergo pre-flight preparations. These include a static-fire test, in which the Raptor will be briefly ignited while the SN5 structure is tethered to the test-stand. If this test produces desirable results, Starship SN5 will be the first large-scale prototype to conduct a test flight at Boca Chica. Future prototypes will test the power of more engines after successful 150-meter test flight. Musk hopes to accomplish conducting a test flight of 20-kilometers and launching Starship to orbit, at around 100-kilometers, before the year ends.
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. SpaceX developed the Raptor to make fuel more efficient, powerful, and affordable – set to decrease in price as production scales. “Other rocket engines were designed for no (or almost no) reuse,” Musk said, “Raptor is designed for heavy and immediate reuse, like an aircraft jet engine, with inspections required only after many flights, assuming instrumentation shows it good. Using hydrostatic bearings certainly helps.”