Featured Image Source: @RGVaerialphotos via Twitter
SpaceX is working hard to transform humans into a multiplanet species. The aerospace company is working towards the development of a fully reusable Starship spacecraft capable of performing long-duration voyages to Mars. The founder of SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk, told ArsTechnica reporters early March that manufacturing a production line of Starships and creating a rocket factory will enable SpaceX to speed up the spacecraft's development. – “A high production rate solves many ills. If you have a high production rate, you have a high iteration rate. For pretty much any technology whatsoever, the progress is a function of how many iterations do you have, and how much progress do you make between each iteration,” Musk explained, “If you have a high production rate then you have many iterations. You can make progress from one to the next.”
High bay, SN5, SN6 & SN8!— RGVAerialPhotography (@RGVaerialphotos) September 13, 2020
You think we might see more windbreaks/VAB being built to accommodate the growing starship fleet? @elonmusk
🛩📷🚀 (09/12 2100ft msl)#spacex #bocachica #starship https://t.co/dGpvgoDEmt pic.twitter.com/Gjq5IO6l4y
Around seven months later, now, SpaceX has multiple stainless-steel Starship prototypes under assembly, each scheduled to undergo testing one after the other. Starship SN1, SN2, SN3, and SN4, underwent proof testing earlier this year, all were destroyed during testing. Those tests offered insight that enabled engineers to manufacture a set of stronger twin prototypes -Starship SN5 and SN6. Both conducted a low-altitude test flight powered by a single Raptor engine above Boca Chica beach in South Texas. As of today, Starship SN8, SN9, SN10, and SN11 prototypes are simultaneously under assembly at the rocket factory.
The next test flight will be conducted by Starship SN8, it will be the first fully assembled vehicle to attempt a higher-altitude test flight. Unlike previous prototypes, SN8 will liftoff 60,000 feet (20-kilometers) powered by a trio of Raptor engines. The vehicle will attempt to conduct a ‘belly flop’ flight maneuver as shown in the simulation video below. “Pretty accurate simulation, although SN8 will use 3 Raptors,” Musk said via Twitter, “If SN8 craters, SN9 & SN10 are close behind. High production rate allows for fast iteration,” he added. If for any reason SN8 fails to pass pre-flight preparations, SN9 will be ready for a test flight.
Pretty accurate simulation, although SN8 will use 3 Raptors. If SN8 craters, SN9 & SN10 are close behind. High production rate allows for fast iteration.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 15, 2020
Earlier this year, Musk said SpaceX teams aim to be capable of building at least one Starship each week to test out, eventually he hopes to manufacture a Starship every 72 hours! The higher the production rate the faster engineers could have Starships just waiting to be tested. He also told reporters he expects Starship’s manufacturing costs to reduce to $5 million per stainless-steel vehicle. To eventually accomplish building a fully reusable Starship capable of long-duration voyages to the Red Planet, SpaceX will conduct “hundreds” of test flights before launching people on board. Musk was asked via Twitter on Monday, what Starship SN# number he expects will conduct the first orbital launch test, to which he responded – “Just a guess, but probably mid-teens. Booster & stacking on orbital pad are likely limiting factors. We’ll build several ships just to improve the production system.” The orbital launch pad and first prototype of the Super Heavy rocket booster, that will propel the Starship spacecraft to orbit, already initiated construction. We could see the first orbital test flight take place sometime in 2021.
Just a guess, but probably mid teens. Booster & stacking on orbital pad are likely limiting factors. We’ll build several ships just to improve the production system.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 15, 2020