Featured Image Source: @SpacePadreIsle via Twitter
SpaceX teams at the South Texas Launch Facility in Boca Chica Beach, are preparing for a second round of Starship SN8 testing at the launchpad. Starship SN8 is a stainless-steel prototype that will attempt a 15-kilometer (50,000 feet) test flight in November if preparations go well in the coming days. The Starship SN8 vehicle features three Raptor engines and aerodynamic 'flaps' that will be tested for the first time during flight. Before SN8 takes flight, teams are expected to conduct a series of pre-flight preparations that will offer engineers insight on whether the vehicle is ready to perform the high-altitude debut launch.
Great shot!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 30, 2020
Some Starship SN8 milestones we should see before a debut launch are: Another static-fire test of the three Raptor engines, and a test ignition that includes the oxygen header tank located at the very top of the nose cone section; A cyogenic proof test of the nose cone section (the bottom half already passed a pressure test early October). Teams are also expected to test out the aerodynamic flaps, as well as the reaction control system (RCS) of Starship's thrusters that provide attitude control.
How far into flight / landing do you think SN8 will make it for its 15km hop? 🤔— Everyday Astronaut (@Erdayastronaut) October 31, 2020
SpaceX fans are eagerly anticipating Starship SN8's 15-kilometer launch. Rocket Science YouTuber Everyday Astronaut started a poll via Twitter, asking space enthusiasts what they expect to see during SN8's test flight. The founder of SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk replied to the poll on October 31st, stating that a "Stable, controlled descent with body flaps" of the Starship SN8 test vehicle during flight "would be great. Transferring propellant feed from main to header tanks & relight would be a major win," he wrote, "But, a RUD right off launch pad is also possible. Fortunately, SN9 is almost ready," Musk added. The acronym 'RUD' means "Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly," in other words, if Starship SN8 blows up, Starship SN9 is the next prototype in line. It is under assembly at the facility where multiple Starships are under construction. Each will undergo similar testing to potentially be launched.
But, a RUD right off launch pad is also possible. Fortunately, SN9 is almost ready.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 31, 2020
Musk plans to test out Starship's aerodynamic flaps for the first time during SN8's flight. SpaceX will attempt to perform a "belly flop" test flight and land the vehicle. --"Understanding exactly how the body flaps control pitch, yaw & roll during descent, such that the ship is positioned well to relight, flip & land, would be a big win," he said. A Twitter user asked him if SpaceX engineers would direct Starship to fall into Boca Chica's ocean in the event that relight does not occur, to which Musk replied --"Yeah. Although, if it fails right at the end, some landing pad repair will be needed to fill in the crater."
Understanding exactly how the body flaps control pitch, yaw & roll during descent, such that the ship is positioned well to relight, flip & land, would be a big win— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 31, 2020
Yeah. Although, if it fails right at the end, some landing pad repair will be needed to fill in the crater.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 31, 2020
According to Boca Chica Beach road closure announcements, SpaceX will conduct pre-flight testing operations starting on November 1st, during a timeframe beginning at 7:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. CDT, also on November 2nd from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. CDT. The company also scheduled back-up opportunites for November 3 through 4 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. CDT. If all testing goes well, Starship SN8 would perform the long-awaited flight before November ends. You can watch SpaceX operations in South Texas LIVE in the video below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
WATCH IT LIVE!
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.