Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX is rapidly developing the Starship launch vehicle at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. The company has an ambitious timeline to accomplish, they target to have a space-ready Starship by 2023. According to NASASpaceflight reporters, SpaceX aims to perform the first orbital flight test with the Starship Super Heavy duo this summer, they currently target July 1st. To conduct an orbital flight SpaceX will require a Super Heavy rocket booster, which the company has not tested yet.
The Super Heavy rocket booster will propel the Starship spacecraft to space and return to be reused. It will be fully reusable, capable of performing multiple flights per day. The company says Super Heavy will be the most powerful rocket ever developed, generating over 16 million pounds of thrust with 28 Raptor engines, more than twice the power of NASA's Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo missions to the Moon. The Raptor is a full-flow staged combustion engine fueled by sub-cooled liquid methane (CH4) and liquid oxygen (LOX) propellants. To date, the aerospace company has test launched six Starship spacecraft prototypes, some have flown with three Raptors. SpaceX is working on the assembly of the first Super Heavy rocket booster prototype. Engineers started to manufacture a booster referred to as, booster number one, ‘BN1’, inside a giant high-bay at Boca Chica, pictured below. The vehicle will undergo a series of tests before SpaceX decides to launch a Super Heavy to space.
Image Source: Tesmanian
Right now, SpaceX is preparing Starship SN11 [serial number 11] to conduct a high-altitude flight test this month. NASASpaceflight says it obtained exclusive information that suggests SpaceX will skip testing/production of the next prototypes in the series ‘SN12, SN13, SN14’ and move on to advanced stages in Starship’s development. –“Following SN11’s flight, SpaceX will move on to SN15, 16, and 17, alongside testing with Super Heavy prototypes BN1 and BN2, before shooting for an orbital launch with SN20 and BN3,” NASASpaceflight reports. With less than three months until Summer, SpaceX is expected to increase its testing and iteration rate at Boca Chica, their goal is to perform the first test launch to space with Starship SN20 and Super Heavy BN3 by July. The first orbital launch mount is under construction already, pictured below. SpaceX founder Elon Musk said that Super Heavy will not land on the ground, the 230-feet-tall rocket will be ‘catched’ by a launch tower. “We’re going to try to catch the Super Heavy Booster with the launch tower arm, using the grid fins to take the load,” Musk said. We can expect to see the launch tower taking shape at Boca Chica in the months ahead. SpaceX envisions transforming the area into a '21st Century Spaceport' from where a Starship fleet will liftoff to the Moon and Mars one day.
Image: Starship SN11 / structure on the right is the orbital launch mount location.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.