Featured Image Source: @SpacePadreIsle via Twitter
SpaceX is in the process of developing Starship, a massive spacecraft that will be capable of performing long duration voyages to Mars. The rocket company aims to build the first self-sustaining colony on the Red Planet by the year 2050. Engineers have been working tirelessly, running 24/7 operations building the first test prototypes of Starship, at the SpaceX South Texas facility located in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville, TX. They are in the process of transforming the facility into a Starship factory that could manufacture a production line of test vehicles.
Early March, SpaceX conducted a series of cryogenic pressurization tests with two prototypes. The Starship SN1 prototype imploded during the test that was meant to prepare the vehicle for a 20 kilometer flight test. The destructive pressure test gave engineers insight towards how to improve the flight vehicle. SpaceX's Chief Engineer Elon Musk, said the SN1 vehicle had an issue at the bottom of the tank, "There’s a puck at the base that takes the engine thrust load. Don’t shuck the puck!" he said. The "thrust puck" is the structure where Starship's Raptor engines are mounted. The tank design and welding had issues that needed to be improved Teams quickly resolved it as they moved on to manufacture the second test tank. On March 10, SN2, a Starship prototype dome tank was tested to ensure the stainless-steel structure and weld could endure high stress. The scaled-down SN2 prototype gave positive results regarding strength, "SN2 (with thrust puck) passed cryo pressure & engine thrust load tests late last night," Musk shared via Twitter. So, now the company moved on to build the next prototype - Starship SN3 - this one is a flight vehicle that will go through a series of pressurization tests, and a conduct "short" test flights with a Raptor engine, Musk shared the rocket company's plan via Twitter:
"Static fire & short flights with SN3, longer flights with SN4, but spooling up the whole Starship/Raptor production line is really what matters."
Static fire & short flights with SN3, longer flights with SN4, but spooling up the whole Starship/Raptor production line is really what matters— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 9, 2020
If first pressurization tests go smoothly, SpaceX will install a Raptor engine and conduct a static-fire test, which is a pre-flight preparation to ensure the engine is working at optimal level. Technicians are still assembling the stainless-steel structure and installing a internal parts, including plumbing, installing wiring for power, sensors for communication, among other things. The SN3 prototype could become the first fully assembled Starship to conduct a debut flight. The vehicle would liftoff from a launch pad that is a couple of miles down the road from the assembly site at Boca Chica Beach. We could see Starship SN3 roll-out to the launch pad in the week ahead.
WATCH CONSTRUCTION PROGRESS!