November 11, 2019 • Evelyn J. Arevalo
Starship Mk1 at Boca Chica Beach, Texas.
Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX is currently building the first prototype of their most ambitious project --Starship. The spaceship that could completely change humanity's future, enabling us to become a space-faring civilization to further explore our galaxy and colonize the Moon and Mars. It will be the world's most powerful rocket in history!
The first prototype is made of stainless steel, referred to as, 'Mark1' or 'Mk1' and it's under construction at their South Texas launch site in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville, Texas. There is also another prototype named 'Mk2' under construction in Florida, but today's article is all about Texas' Mk1.
Image Source: SpaceX
This first prototype of the vehicle features 3 Raptor engines, 2 aerodynamic fins located at the top of the crafts nose cone, 2 larger bottom fins, and 6 landing legs that are 'hidden' under mounts.
All these new design features will soon be tested. SpaceX plans conduct a test flight with this prototype by launching the craft 20 kilometers above Boca Chica Beach, Texas, then attempt landing it vertically on a nearby concrete pad. This will be the very first time a fully assembled Starship prototype will be tested.
The exact test date is still pending but those who know Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, know he has crazy timelines. As he famously said,
"If the schedule is long it's wrong, if it's tight its right."
So, a launch date could surprise us at any time!
Image Source: SPadre / Twitter @SpacepadreIsle
Meanwhile, SpaceX teams have transported the bottom half of its Starship Mk1 prototype to the launch pad that's approximately a mile away, down the road, from their assembly site at Boca Chica. There, Starship MK1 was installed atop a newly built launch mount where it will undergo several weeks of preparations.
In order to move the vehicle to the launch pad and onto a mount, SpaceX engineers disassembled Starship Mk1 partially. The nose cap, fins and engines were removed before the fairing, top half, were unstacked.
Image Source: Mary / Twitter @BocaChicaGal
Teams have been working hard installing additional hardware. They installed 6 landing leg mounts that will have the role of aiding Starship Mk1's first landing attempt. It seems as if the new leg design will deploy the legs vertically from inside the mounts.
Image Source: NASASpaceflight/Twitter @BocaChicaGal
At the bottom base they installed 6 black steel structures, those are the vehicles retractable landing legs which will be covered by shiny stainless steel mounts. The leg mechanism could deploy up and down upon landing.
Source: Austin Barnard/Twitter @austinbarnard45
SpaceX engineers have recently begun to install Mk1’s two forward fins, located near the tip of the prototype's nose fairing. These are aerodynamic fins that will be used to provide the craft some control to shift trajectory while flying and upon landing.
The craft is also undergoing all sorts of wiring and electronics installations, as other internal structures.
There are currently some road closures scheduled in the city's website. The road closures signify dates when SpaceX will close the roads in order to continue some major building work that could interfere with regular road traffic. Current closure dates are November 13th and an alternative date on the 14th. These road closures could change.
During those or upcoming road closures, SpaceX teams should begin moving the upper nose cone section to the launch pad and that's when we will know that other pre-flight preparations will follow, then a triple Raptor engine static fire test as the launch date approaches.
It will be exciting to watch!