Featured Image Source: @NASASpaceflight via Twitter
SpaceX is in the initial phase of developing its next-generation spacecraft –Starship. It will be a massive stainless-steel vehicle capable of performing long-duration voyages to Mars. The aerospace company was founded with the ultimate goal to build a sustainable human settlement on the Red Planet. To accomplish it, SpaceX founder and Chief Engineer Elon Musk says a fleet of one thousand Starships will be needed to carry megatons of important cargo needed for survival on the rough Martian environment. The fleet of one thousand ships would be deployed over the course of around twenty years.
SpaceX will manufacture two versions of Starship: a “Crew Configuration” and “Cargo Configuration.” The company's user guide offers insight into the Starship that will be designed especially for crew. "SpaceX was founded with the goal of making life multiplanetary," it reads, "The Starship program is realizing this goal with the crew configuration of Starship." It will feature a one thousand cubic meter cabin capable of accommodating one hundred passengers. And have private rooms that could host two to three individuals comfortably. “The crew configuration of Starship includes private cabins, large common areas, centralized storage, solar storm shelters and a viewing gallery." Starship’s cargo configuration will be capable of deploying over one hundred tons of cargo.
Musk runs 24/7 operations at SpaceX in order to accomplish enabling life on Mars within our lifetime. The company is building Starship prototypes at its facility located at Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville, Texas. The assembly facility is manufacturing test vehicles simultaneously. The fourth Starship prototype built this year, referred to as SN4, will perform a test flight soon.
Today, May 28, engineers briefly ignited Starship SN4’s Raptor engine during a static-fire test, meant to assess if the craft is ready for a debut flight. The Raptor roared for a few seconds this afternoon, as Starship SN4 remained grounded with clamps to the launch pad at Boca Chica. Residents who live at the small beach village recorded video of the fiery test, shown below.
STATIC FIRE! Starship SN4 fires up with Raptor SN20 (second time with this engine, fourth time overall) at the Boca Chica launch site.— Chris B - NSF (@NASASpaceflight) May 28, 2020
Vid via Mary (@BocaChicaGal) with the NSF team commentating.https://t.co/pP4tR7ic0S pic.twitter.com/Ykep1do306
The SN4 vehicle will become the first large-scale vehicle to take flight, previous prototypes collapsed during cryogenic pressure testing. SN4 survived and today was the fourth static-firing the stainless-steel vehicle endured. The previous static fire test burned the bottom of the vehicle, which probably caused internal wiring damage that teams fixed to reconduct the test. The stating-firing seemed to be successful.
Today, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued SpaceX a two-year license to launch suborbital flights from the Boca Chica site, for “reusable launch vehicle” missions, which grants permission for SpaceX to launch Starship and land it. The FAA document reads:
"'Flight' shall mean the flight of the Starship
Prototype vehicle, commencing with ignition of the
vehicle from the Boca Chica Launch Site. Flight
includes operation of the Starship Prototype vehicle
on a suborbital trajectory with translation to the
landing pad at the Boca Chica Launch Site. A flight
is concluded upon safing of the vehicle."
Starship SN4’s debut test flight will be 150-meters-high, SpaceX teams will attempt to also land the vehicle on a nearby landing pad. The exact date of launch is not yet determined.
The test flight is expected to happen weeks after SpaceX conducts its first crewed flight to the International Space Station over the weekend. A Falcon 9 rocket will launch NASA astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft on May 30th. The agency has not launched astronauts in nearly a decade. SpaceX will reestablish the United States as a space power, by returning human spaceflight capabilities.