SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by engineer Elon Musk, is developing Starship to build a permanent base on the Lunar surface and establish a sustainable human settlement on Mars. For around two years the company has been testing stainless-steel prototypes of the spacecraft that is under development at the SpaceX South Texas Launch Facility located in Boca Chica, a sandy beach village along the border with Mexico. On Wednesday, December 9, SpaceX performed the first high-altitude test flight with a fully-assembled Starship prototype dubbed ‘SN8.’ Starship SN8 soared into the sky above Boca Chica beach powered by a trio of methalox-fueled Raptor engines, flying into an altitude of approximately 50,000 feet (15-kilometers). A TESMANIAN correspondent witnessed the historic debut flight in which Starship’s aerodynamic flaps were tested for the first time as the shiny vehicle flawlessly descended down towards the landing pad – then exploded. You can watch video from their perspective below.
Even though the vehicle’s grand finale was a fireball, the incredible test flight was successful because it checked off key objectives off Musk’s Starship development list. He said Starship SN8 performed a “Successful ascent, switchover to header tanks & precise flap control to landing point!” He also shared that the reason why Starship SN8 exploded upon landing was because the –“Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD [Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly], but we got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team hell yeah!!” Musk stated via Twitter after the successful test flight today. “SN8 did great! Even reaching apogee would’ve been great, so controlling all way to putting the crater in the right spot was epic!!” he added.
Starship landing flip maneuver pic.twitter.com/QuD9HwZ9CX— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 10, 2020
Thank you, South Texas for your support! This is the gateway to Mars.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 10, 2020
Musk shared his excitement via Twitter –“Mars, here we come!!” he said, adding – “Thank you, South Texas for your support! This is the gateway to Mars,” he stated. In response to Musk's Tweet, the Governor of Texas Greg Abbott said –“South Texas. The Gateway to Mars. Thanks Elon Musk,” he wrote. Long-term SpaceX is expected to improve the local South Texas economy by creating job opportunities, and attracting tourists plus businesses into the area. In the future, Starship will liftoff astronauts to the Moon and the Red Planet from the ‘21st Century Spaceport and Resort’ Musk plans to build at Boca Chica beach, where teams at the Starship Production Complex are actively manufacturing multiple stainless-steel Starships.
According to an official SpaceX job application published earlier this year, the resort could have up to one hundred bookable rooms. SpaceX plans to make Boca Chica an epic place for SpaceX employees to work and live in as they work towards developing the Starship spacecraft. The future “SpaceX Village” will feature activities like volleyball tournaments, kayaking, and even “spaceport lounge events and parties.” “SpaceX is committed to developing revolutionary space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. Boca Chica Village is our latest launch site dedicated to Starship, our next-generation launch vehicle,” the company wrote in the August job listing, “SpaceX is committed to developing this town into a 21st-century Spaceport. We are looking for a talented Resort Development Manager to oversee the development of SpaceX's first resort from inception to completion.”
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.