Featured Image Source: TESMANIAN.com / Evelyn J. Arevalo via Twitter
SpaceX’s South Texas Launch Site is starting to look more like a spaceport straight out of a Sci-Fi film –two Starships side-by-side await a test flight at Boca Chica Beach. The founder of SpaceX Elon Musk plans to transform the small village into the ‘Gateway to Mars’ from where a fleet of hundreds of Starships will embark on voyages to the Red Planet. “It appears that consciousness is a very rare and precious thing and we should take whatever steps we can to preserve the light of consciousness,” Musk said in 2019, “Only now, after 4.5 billion years has that window been open. That’s a long time to wait and it might not stay open for long… I’m pretty optimistic by nature, but there’s some chance that window will not be open for long, and I think we should become a multi-planet civilization while that window is open,” he said.
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SpaceX runs around-the-clock operations to create a spacefaring future. For the first time at the launch pad there's twin stainless-steel prototypes of the spacecraft that could change the course of humanity’s future forever. The Starship SN9 and Starship SN10 prototypes will each undergo testing that will offer engineers insight towards the spacecraft’s development. Starship SN9 has been at the launch pad since December 22, where it underwent preflight testing for the past month. Starship SN10 was transported to the launch pad this afternoon. The vehicle was rolled out of the assembly site down the road less than 3-miles away, as space enthusiasts observed.
Starship SN9 & SN10 pic.twitter.com/urtPJn7amo— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 29, 2021
Starship SN9 will soon perform a high-altitude test flight. The 50-meter-tall vehicle will soar approximately 10-kilometers above the sandy beach powered by a trio of Raptor engines that will be shut down as it reaches the planned altitude, then SN9 will perform a controlled ‘belly flip’ maneuver and attempt to ace the landing. Its predecessor, SN8, exploded before landing due to a loss of pressure in its header fuel tank. “SN9 will perform a propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold landing propellant, before reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent,” the company states. “The Starship prototype will descend under active aerodynamic control, accomplished by independent movement of two forward and two aft flaps on the vehicle. All four flaps are actuated by an onboard flight computer to control Starship’s attitude during flight and enable precise landing at the intended location. SN9’s Raptor engines will then reignite as the vehicle attempts a landing flip maneuver immediately before touching down on the landing pad adjacent to the launch mount,” SpaceX said. Starship SN9 could liftoff as soon as Monday. According to Cameron County Boca Chica beach road closure announcements, SpaceX could potentially launch SN9 on February 1st sometime between 9:00 am to 6:00 pm Central Time, a backup test opportunity is also scheduled for February 2nd at the same time [date is subject to change].
Starship SN9 pictured above.
Starship SN10 pictured above.
As Starship SN9 awaits Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for the upcoming flight test, SpaceX teams are lifting SN10 on a test stand next to SN9, where it will undergo Raptor engine integration and preflight testing in the days ahead. All its happening as other teams build multiple Starship prototypes at the rocket factory. A TESMANIAN correspondent visited the launch facility today to capture photos of the rapidly growing ‘Gateway to Mars’, more photographs shown below.
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.