Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk to make life multi-planetary. “You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great and that's what being a space-faring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars,” he says. SpaceX is developing Starship to enable life on Mars. Musk envisions a fleet of hundreds of Starships embarking on voyages to the Red Planet. Each capable of carrying one hundred passengers and tons of cargo. – “Helping to pay for this is why I’m accumulating assets on Earth,” he said in January.
SpaceX teams are rapidly preparing multiple Starship vehicles to test launch in South Texas at the Boca Chica Village assembly site. Last week, the company conducted the first low-altitude ‘hop’ test flight of the year. The Starship SN5 prototype soared 150-meters off the ground and landed, powered by a single Raptor engine. After the successful test, Musk outlined the next phase of the Starship’s development – “We’ll do several short hops to smooth out launch process, then go high altitude with body flaps.”
Engineers aim to develop a fully reusable spacecraft; they may attempt to take SN5 on a second test flight. Musk said teams will perform repairs on the vehicle, “Probably SN6 flies before SN5. We need to make flights simple & easy — many per day.” The SN5 test vehicle was transported from the launch pad back to the assembly site less than five-miles down the road.
Today, August 11, Musk shared a photograph of two giant stainless-steel Starship prototypes, SN5 and SN6, standing side-by-side. – “SN 5 & 6 at Starship Production Complex in Texas,” he wrote via Twitter. The vehicles are equipped with a small patch of ceramic heat protection tiles engineers will test out. The tiles were installed in a different formation on each, Musk explained that it is a “slightly different mounting method. Need bigger sections of tiles to see how they hold up with cryo [cryogenic] shrinkage, pressure expansion & body bending.”
SN7 will be new alloy test tank taken to burst pressure. SN8 will have body flaps & nosecone.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 11, 2020
Starship SN6 was transported to the launch pad today, where it will undergo a series of pre-flight preparations to conduct a low-altitude, 150-meter test flight. SpaceX aims to make launching stainless-steel crafts routine. Before taking flight, SN6 must pass a series of milestones. It will undergo cryogenic pressure testing first, to ensure it can withstand the high-stresses of flight. If that goes smoothly, teams will proceed to installing a Raptor engine and test-firing it.
Musk also shared some details of the next prototypes in line. He said that "SN7 will be new alloy test tank taken to burst pressure" and "SN8 will have body flaps & nosecone." Starship SN8 is already under construction inside a Vehicle Assembly Building, pictured below. This vehicle will be the first one to lift off featuring a nose cone, body flaps (fins), and improved landing legs. SN8 is expected to conduct a higher-altitude test flight at around 20-kilometers, powered by 3 Raptor engines.
StarShip SN5(left), SN6(right), & SN8(middle).— Austin Barnard🚀 (@austinbarnard45) August 11, 2020
SN5 & 6 are the pathfinders to attempt several short hops(150m<492ft>) To smooth out launch process, then SN8 will perform the high altitude hop/belly flop with body flaps(20km<12Mi>)🚀 pic.twitter.com/PBMKyzG6x8
Boca Chica Beach will not only be a Starship factory, it will be transformed into a ‘21st Century Spaceport’ and Resort according to a recent job listing posted by SpaceX. – “SpaceX is committed to developing revolutionary space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. Boca Chica Village is our latest launch site dedicated to Starship, our next-generation launch vehicle,” the company wrote in the job listing, “SpaceX is committed to developing this town into a 21st-century Spaceport. We are looking for a talented Resort Development Manager to oversee the development of SpaceX's first resort from inception to completion.”
Musk has an ambitious timeline for getting the first Starships carrying cargo to Mars by 2022, followed by the first humans as early as 2024.