Featured Image Source: @LabPadre via YouTube & Twitter
SpaceX teams at the South Texas Launch Site work around-the-clock to develop the Starship vehicle that could one day enable humanity to live in a spacefaring civilization. The aerospace company is taking on the incredibly ambitious challenge to develop the most powerful launch vehicle ever created. Starship will feature a giant Super Heavy rocket booster capable of producing roughly twice the thrust as the Saturn V rocket that took NASA astronauts to the lunar surface under the Apollo program. Humans have not set foot on the moon since 1972, nearly 50 years ago. SpaceX aspires to change that soon. NASA awarded SpaceX a contract to develop a Starship Lunar Lander. Prototypes of the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket are set to undergo testing towards the spacecraft’s overall development this year.
Today, January 26, SpaceX is testing a Starship propellant dome tank known as ‘SN7.2’, at the Boca Chica Beach launch pad. Previous dome tanks have been intentionally pressurized to the point of destruction during proof tests meant to assess the structural integrity of the stainless-steel. At around 10:40 a.m. Central Time, the Starship SN7.2 propellant tank prototype started a cryogenic proof test. During the test, the dome was filled with super cold liquid nitrogen to determine if it can handle the same types of temperatures and pressure it must endure during flight. Starship’s Raptor engines are fueled with cryogenic methane and liquid oxygen for launches. It is likely the SN7.2 tank will undergo a series of pressure tests until its intentionally 'popped'. January 26 UPDATE: Elon Musk shares SN7.2 "Passed initial pressure test."
Passed initial pressure test— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 26, 2021
This is happening as SpaceX teams are preparing Starship SN9 to perform a 12.5-kilometer flight test at Boca Chica Beach. The SN9 vehicle features three Raptor engines and aerodynamic flaps that will be used to attempt a ‘landing flip maneuver’. SN9’s predecessor, SN8, performed an incredible flight test in December that showcased how the vehicles’ aerodynamic surfaces worked. However, as it conducted the flip maneuver to attempt a landing, one of Starship SN8's propellant tanks lost pressure, “Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high" ending with an explosion, Musk said last month. This is why proof testing is a vital component towards the spacecraft's development; to figure out how much pressure the stainless-steel dome tanks can withstand and how much pressure is needed for a successful flight and landing. Engineers aim to address the issue to ace Starship SN9’s landing on the upcoming flight test. SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared the flight test could take place sometime this week, pending Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval. – “We’re hoping for FAA approval of a test flight tomorrow afternoon,” Musk said early morning on January 26. Starship SN9 could liftoff as soon as tomorrow from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central Time, according to Boca Chica Beach closure announcements (dates are subject to change). UPDATE: Testing for January 27 has been cancelled. You can watch SpaceX operations leading to launch day Live 24/7 in the video below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
We’re hoping for FAA approval of a test flight tomorrow afternoon— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 26, 2021
WATCH IT LIVE!
About the Author
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.