Elon Musk Shares SpaceX's Starship SN16 May Conduct A 'Hypersonic Flight Test'

by Evelyn Arevalo June 17, 2021

Elon Musk Shares SpaceX's Starship SN16 May Conduct A 'Hypersonic Flight Test'

Featured Image Source: Tesmanian.com 

SpaceX aims to launch the first Starship to orbit this year. The company is rapidly building its first Super Heavy-class launch tower to support an ambitious orbital flight test in South Texas. According to a filing with the U.S. Federal Communication’s Commission (FCC), SpaceX plans to fly Starship from Boca Chica Beach to the coast of Hawaii during the first orbital flight! “The Starship Orbital test flight will originate from Starbase, TX. The Booster stage will separate approximately 170 seconds into flight. The Booster will then perform a partial return and land in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 20 miles from the shore,” SpaceX told the FCC in the document, “The Orbital Starship will continue on flying between the Florida Straits. It will achieve orbit until performing a powered, targeted landing approximately 100km (~62 miles) off the northwest coast of Kauai [Hawaii] in a soft ocean landing.” The company already started to build a 400-foot-tall orbital launch tower to support the launch and stacking operation of Starship atop the giant Super Heavy booster, once stacked the vehicle will be 394-feet-tall.

To prepare for the debut orbital flight attempt, SpaceX is testing prototypes of the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket booster. This past week, the company moved the Starship SN16 prototype from the assembly site to an area nicknamed the ‘rocket garden’, where Starship SN15, was moved to be on display after its high-altitude test. Space enthusiasts started to speculate on social media that it meant SN16 would be retired without ever flying. On Thursday, SpaceX founder Elon Musk put speculation to rest when he shared that SpaceX “might use SN16 on a hypersonic flight test,” he wrote via Twitter in response to an article speculating about SN16’s retirement. Launching Starship SN16 on a hypersonic test flight would prepare SpaceX for an orbital flight by simulating the kind of speeds the spacecraft will experience as it lifts off to fly around Earth.

Musk also shared a photograph of the two stainless-steel Starship vehicles side-by-side –“Real pic of 2 ships next to Starbase Tiki Bar on right,” he said. The ‘Tiki Bar’ is a SpaceX restaurant for employees that looks like a triangle-shaped house with an orange roof, pictured below.

This afternoon, SpaceX performed the second cryogenic proof test of a Super Heavy booster test tank identified as ‘BN2.1’. During a proof test, the stainless-steel tank is filled with sub-chilled liquid nitrogen to pressurize the structure. The test is conducted to assess whether the structure can withstand the kind of pressure it will experience during an orbital flight (photo below). 


Featured Image Source: Tesmanian.com / Evelyn J. Arevalo 


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