Image via SpaceX/Flickr
One step closer to Mars!
Image via SpaceX/Flickr
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter over the weekend that the company would attempt the next Starship test flight this week, but “no earlier than Wednesday”.
This was in response to Michael Baylor sharing an alert notice which was given to the residents of Boca Chica in Texas, where the SpaceX facility and the Starship prototypes are situated.
“An alert notice has been given to the residents of Boca Chica village for Starship testing on Monday. But before you panic, it appears to be the standard static fire (or similar) notice. There is no requirement of temporarily leaving the village”.
In another tweet, Musk said the static fire goals “are to test three engine ascent, body flaps, the transition from main to header tanks and landing flip” during the 15-kilometre altitude flight.
It would appear as though the test didn’t take place on Wednesday 2 December as planned. But no news can be good news, meaning it is probably still scheduled for some point this week.
When Michael Sheetz, space reporter at CNBC, asked how Musk was feeling “about Starship’s chances of landing in one piece”, the South African-born entrepreneur replied:
“Lot of things need to go right, so maybe 1/3 chance”.
Musk explained that “Starship legs are one of the hardest problems, externally mounted legs require shielding, which adds mass. Wider stance adds mass. Shock absorbers add mass”.
The upcoming test flight will be SpaceX’s most ambitious test of the Starship prototype to date. SpaceX is aiming to reach 15 kilometres (50 000 feet) in altitude with the SN8 model.
Back in August 2020, Starship took its first steps towards Mars. At the time, a prototype of SpaceX’s next-gen deep-space rocket reached an altitude of 150 metres during a hop test; it landed successfully too.
To be clear, the Starship programme is still in its early stages. The previous hop test relied on only one Raptor engine mounted at the base of the prototype. The final Starship spacecraft will have six main Raptor engines.
SpaceX is currently manufacturing Starship prototypes at its Boca Chica facility in Texas. If all goes according to plan, SpaceX would like to pencil in Starship’s first orbital flight test for 2021.
A hop test is a controlled takeoff and landing. It’s a technique also utilised to land Falcon 9 rockets on a drone ship after a flight, such as US astronauts Bob and Doug’s recent milestone space flight.
According to SpaceX, it’s the largest test version of the prototype in the Starship programme to successfully “hop” to that height (not including the Starhopper’s tests back in 2019).
The first version, Starhopper, was retired back in 2019 after completing its second and final untethered flight. Starhopper had only a single Raptor, which took the craft about 150 metres in the air before landing safely.
Once the final design of Starship is complete, Musk will be one step closer to sending humans to the Moon and to Mars, having said in the past that he is planning to send a crewed mission to the moon by 2023.
Also read: Starship: SpaceX prepares for next phase of testing [photos]