SpaceX destroys Starship test tank to assess its strength

SpaceX destroys Starship test tank to assess its strength

Featured Image Source: @LabPadre via Twitter and YouTube

SpaceX’s mission is to colonize Mars one day. The aerospace company is developing Starship in South Texas where multiple stainless-steel prototypes will undergo testing. SpaceX states Starship will be the world’s most powerful rocket, capable of transporting over one hundred tons of cargo and one hundred passengers on long-duration voyages through deep space.

Developing a gigantic spacecraft capable of enabling humans to live on another planet has not been attempted before, SpaceX is going boldly where no other rocket company in the industry has gone. Starship’s development involves manufacturing dozens of prototypes to test out at the Boca Chica beach facility. These vehicles will each undergo a series of tests that will offer engineers insight towards developing a space-ready spaceship.

Some of these tests involve intentionally destroying test vehicles in order to assess the design and stainless-steel strength when subjected to stressors similar to the vibrations and atmospheric pressure a Starship would experience in-flight. SpaceX conducts these tests at the launch pad, from where two prototypes already performed a low-altitude test flight.

Last night, engineers conducted a cryogenic pressurization test of a Starship test tank referred to as SN7.1. The tank was filled will inert liquid nitrogen at extremely low temperatures that caused it to develop frost all around to push the stainless-steel to its limit. At around 4:54 a.m. CDT (local) the SN7.1 tank popped sending clouds of white vapor into the night sky. Boca Chica village residents set up cameras to capture the moment engineers intentionally destroyed the tank, video below.

The founder of SpaceX Elon Musk previously said Starship needs to withstand a pressure of around 6 bar to 8.5 bar; ~6 bar is needed for orbital flights and ~8.5 bar is the strength that would be safe to carry out crewed flights. That is why it is important to know how much pressure the stainless-steel Starship tank can withstand to ensure the spacecraft will be safe to carry humans aboard. Destroying prototypes enables engineers to assess their design and determine if the stainless-steel alloy is strong enough for spaceflight or if it needs improvement. Each test at Boca Chica takes the company closer towards actually launching a Starship to space.

The first fully assembled Starship referred to as SN8 is expected to take flight in October. Starship SN8 will conduct 60,000 feet (20-kilometer) test flight above Boca Chica beach and conduct a vertical landing, powered by a trio of Raptor engines.



Earlier this year, Musk said SpaceX teams aim to be capable of building at least one Starship each week to rapidly test out. The higher the production rate - the faster engineers could develop the spacecraft that will transform humans into a multiplanet species. SpaceX plans to conduct “hundreds” of test flights and satellite deployments before launching people on board.



About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn 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.

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