Featured Image Source: @cnunezimages via Twitter
SpaceX is working towards developing the spacecraft that will enable humanity to live on Mars. Engineers are actively mamufacturing and testing stainless-steel Starship prototypes at the Boca Chica beach facility in South Texas. These vehicles will each undergo a series of tests that will offer engineers insight towards developing a space-ready spaceship.
SpaceX teams will soon perform a proof test of the next prototype that is set to conduct a test flight, referred to as SN8. Starship SN8 is at the Boca Chica launchpad undergoing preparations for a cryogenic pressure test that will submit the structure to extremely high pressure, the kind of stress the vehicle would undergo during flight. During the test, SN8 will be filled with liquid nitrogen while hydraulic rams will simulate the forces of Raptor engines underneath the vehicle's thrust puck. 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. If Starship SN8 passes the strength test, SpaceX will be closer towards launching the vehicle later this month.
The proof test to assess Starship SN8's strength before flight is expected to take place sometime this week. According to the county's beach closure announcements, SpaceX plans to conduct the cryogenic pressure test on October 5th sometime from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Central Time (local). If the test does not take place tonight, back up opportunites is scheduled for October 6 and 7 at the same time.
Starship SN8 will be the first stainless-steel test vehicle that will be fully assembled, featuring a top nose cone section and aerodynamic fins – that look like the spacecraft's original design. SN8 will also be the first test vehicle to attempt a higher altitude test flight of around 15-kilometers (km), equivalent to 50,000 feet (ft) above Boca Chica Beach. Starship SN8’s test flight will differ in many ways from the previous test flights. During flight, SN8 will liftoff powered by a trio of powerful Raptor engines, which can generate over 600 metric tons of thrust. The vehicle will attempt to dive through the sky in a ‘belly flop’ fashion, and land vertically during the test. This has not been attempted by the company before.
With every dawn comes one day closer to Mars. Thanks so much for the inspiration @elonmusk ! - #bocachicatomars #SpaceX #iCANimagine LLC @SpaceIntellige3 https://t.co/rlWH1GIq28 pic.twitter.com/DIeQl1UDAW— cnunezimages (@cnunezimages) October 3, 2020
As SN8 is undergoing preparations for the proof test at the launchpad, teams are simultaneously building multiple prototypes at the assembly facility, situated less than 5-miles away from the launchpad. The next prototype in line, Starship SN9, is already stacked inside a high bay at thr facility. Starship SN10 and SN11 are also under construction. Musk said on Friday SpaceX will reveal the orbital spacecraft's design before the end of October during an annual update presentation. "Starship update coming in about 3 weeks. The design has coalesced. What is presented will actually be what flies to orbit as V1.0 with almost no changes," he wrote via Twitter.
Oh yeah, Starship update coming in about 3 weeks. The design has coalesced. What is presented will actually be what flies to orbit as V1.0 with almost no changes.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 2, 2020
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.