Featured Image Source: Tesmanian.com / Evelyn Arevalo
SpaceX's ultimate goal is to build a sustainable human settlement on Mars, engineers are developing Starship to complete the mission. The rocket company is in the process of building the first flight prototype of Starship referred to as SN1. Starship SN1 is under construction at SpaceX's South Texas facility in Boca Chica beach. The flight vehicle is made of 301 stainless-steel, it will be the first craft to perform high-altitude test flights. SpaceX teams began stacking Starship SN1 this week after a series of pressurization tests on propellant dome tank prototypes. During the dome tank tests, one of the domes held 8.5 bar of pressure before failure, reaching the safety margin of 1.4 bar necessary for a orbital flight. Engineers wanted to test the stainless-steel structure and welding technique to ensure its strength would be good enough to withstand highly pressurized propellant and gravity forces during flight. Through testing the company improves the crafts capabilities, there was a change in the production of Starship some parts are now stamped and TIP TIG welded versus bump-formed and flux core welded. According to SpaceX officials, the new production process guarantees stronger joints and a mass reduction of 20%. Starship SN1's first test flight is scheduled to happen sometime after March 16, according to a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing, submitted by the company to seek approval for transmission of signals to communicate with the vehicle during the test. The first test flight will be at an altitude of 20 kilometers above Boca Chica. For altitude perspective, the edge of space begins at around 100 kilometers. SpaceX does aim to conduct an orbital space flight attempt before year end.
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SpaceX is rapidly building the flight vehicle and also the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) simultaneously. SpaceX teams have been working 24/7 operations. Early February, the company held a job fair event that aimed to find talented individuals who possess fabrication skills, like welding, in order to ramp up Starship production.
A Vehicle Assembly Building is necessary in order to build Starship in a more clean and controlled environment. Boca Chica is a beach zone the ocean is about 2 miles away from the assembly site, it is always very humid and sand blows under windy conditions, which can affect the welding process. Welding Starship indoors will enable the welding to be stronger. Also, an assembly building is a great addition because hurricane season is underway, a fully assembled Starship could be shielded inside.
STARSHIP ASSEMBLY SITE VIDEO CLIP
In the future, SpaceX has plans of manufacturing at least two Starship vehicles per week, so they are actually building a Starship assembly factory. This year they plan to build as many as 20 Starships that will be used for testing different features. It will take many tests and prototype vehicles in order to build a Starship that will be capable of carrying 100 passengers plus 100 tons of cargo on long-duration voyages to the moon, Mars and beyond. The final version of Starship will need to be reusable, and capable to take megatons of cargo per year to the Red Planet in order to establish a sustainable colony. Before the Mars mission takes place, SpaceX's first passenger for Starship will go on a space tour around the moon in the year 2023.