Featured Image Source: @SpacePadreIsle Via Twitter.
SpaceX's next-generation rocket-ship is under development in South Texas at a little village located in Boca Chica Beach. Starship, will consist of a massive rocket and spaceship capable of conducting voyages to the moon and Mars. The rocket company is building an entire manufacturing factory to build a production line of massive stainless-steel test flight vehicles. Starship SN3 is the third prototype built this year, it is currently undergoing a series of tests to ensure the craft is ready for a test flight. Today (April 2), SpaceX teams are actively conducting pressurization tests, which aim to check if the stainless-steel structure and weld quality can endure extreme pressure, like the pressures the craft would experience during a spaceflight. According to Elon Musk, the founder and chief engineer at SpaceX, this afternoon Starship SN3 passed an ambient temperature pressure test and tonight they aim to conduct a cryogenic pressurization test. "SN3 passed ambient temperature pressure test last night, now doing cryogenic," he shared via Twitter.
SN3 passed ambient temperature pressure test last night, now doing cryogenic— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 2, 2020
A cryogenic pressure test involves filling the vehicle's tank with super-chilled liquid nitrogen. During the test, the craft is pressurized to the max, as engineers inspect for leaks and hope the stainless-steel structure withstands a pressure strength between 6 and ~8.5 bar. Tonight a test was initiated then aborted. Musk shared that "some valves leaked" at cryogenic temperature and that they are in the process of fixing the issue to "retest soon."
"Some valves leaked at cryo temp. Fixing & will retest soon."
Some valves leaked at cryo temp. Fixing & will retest soon.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 3, 2020
Local residents have set up cameras at Boca Chica to livestream events taking place at SpaceX's launch pad in Texas. In the video above, white clouds of vapor can be seen.
Previous Starship prototypes imploded during pressurization tests; with each new iteration SpaceX learns 'how to' improve the vehicle. If these series of pressurization tests go smoothly, Starship SN3 would undergo Raptor engine installation and a static-fire test in preparation for a debut flight! A static-fire test is a routine pre-flight preparation in which Starship's three Raptor engines are ignited at full throttle for a few seconds while the vehicle grounded, hooked to a launch pad structure. A static-firing would occur sometime between April 6 and April 8. If all tests go well, Starship SN3 is expected to conduct a "hop" test flight, to an altitude of about 150 meters above Boca Chica Beach and SpaceX would attempt to land SN3 on a nearby launch pad. The company has only flown one scaled-down Starship prototype called Starhopper. In 2019, Starhopper conducted a 150 meter hop test and successfully landed on a nearby pad with the power of a single Raptor engine. SpaceX aims to replicate the same flight [video below] but with a fully-assembled vehicle featuring three Raptor engines. Starship SN3 has potential to become that vehicle if all goes according to plan.
STARHOPPER 150 METER TEST FLIGHT