SpaceX’s ultimate goal is to build ‘Mars Base Alpha,’ it sounds like something straight out of a Sci-Fi novel but the aerospace company’s founder Elon Musk is hell-bent on making it a reality. He aims to build the first colony on the Red Planet within the next 20 years and hopes hundreds of brave astronauts could achieve building a self-sustaining colony by the year 2050.
NASA selected SpaceX to build a Starship Human Landing System (HLS) to return astronauts to the Moon by 2025. And the company also has multiple customers that booked circumlunar voyages set to happen in a couple of years, including: Shift4 Payments founder/Inspiration4 commander Jared Isaacman, Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, and Dennis Tito who made history as the first civilian space tourist to visit the International Space Station in 2001 aboard Russia's Soyuz.
The ambitious timeline is what drives SpaceX engineers towards launching Starship to orbit before 2022 comes to a close. This past week, they assessed the structural integrity of the fully-stacked Starship/Super Heavy vehicle at Starbase in South Texas. The vehicles are undergoing pre-flight tests before attempting the first-ever orbital flight. They performed a cryogenic proof test to Starship SN24 stacked atop Super Heavy Booster 7 – these are the prototypes that will be flown to orbit if all testing goes according to plan. During the cryogenic proof tests on October 24 and 26, engineers filled up the launch vehicles' propellant tanks with inert liquid nitrogen to simulate the pressure the stainless-steel spacecraft will experience in-flight. NASASpaceflight shared videos of the proof tests, linked below.
Once engineers determine the vehicle is strong enough to withstand tons of thrust, they will perform a series of Raptor V2 engine static-fire tests to prepare the methane-fueled vehicle for liftoff. Super Heavy Booster 7 is equipped with 33 Raptor V2 engines capable of generating over 12 million pounds of thrust upon liftoff! It would be the first time they fully fuel and ignite a stacked Starship duo and ignite over a dozen engines. –"We are proceeding very carefully," said Musk, "If there is a RUD on the pad, Starship progress will be set back by ~6 months." RUD is short for 'Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly,' it is the term SpaceX uses when a rocket undergoes a serious failure that destroys a vehicle. If an explosion happens at the launch pad it could potentially destroy vital components that would have to be fixed and rebuilt. However, no matter what happens everything provides engineers with vital insight to develop the Starship launch system. There is still no specific date set for the debut orbital flight, which will originate from Boca Chica Beach, Texas, and end with an ocean landing along the northwest coast of Kauai, Hawaii.
Teams are also simultaneously building and testing new Raptor V2 engines at the McGregor, Texas, facility. “Another Raptor relight! The Tripod stand sees a Raptor fire up for 40 seconds. Shutdown. Seconds later fires up again for 29 seconds! This testing is becoming more of a thing at McGregor,” shared NASASpaceflight reporter via Twitter (video linked below).
Another Raptor relight! The Tripod stand sees a Raptor fire up for 40 seconds. Shutdown. Seconds later fires up again for 29 seconds!— Chris Bergin - NSF (@NASASpaceflight) October 27, 2022
This testing is becoming more of a thing at McGregor:
See previous relights here: https://t.co/qjhtcNmm6B
McGregor Live:https://t.co/Eh5oaibOBY pic.twitter.com/qUZr55Y2vN
Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
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.