Fifth Starship prototype flies!


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Starship #5 in flight
Shortly after take-off.

Right after landing
Right after landing.

Shortly after landing
After the smoke has cleared.

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s fifth Starship prototype today successfully completed a 150 meter hop at its Boca Chica facility in Texas, landing vertically.

I have embedded a video of the flight below the fold.

The screen capture to the right shows it in flight. It is canted slightly because its one Raptor engine was not centered at its base but offset.

The next image shows the prototype standing vertical on the ground to the left of Starhopper, which flew one year ago. All told the flight lasted only about a minute.

The final image shows a close-up of the prototype after the smoke has cleared. Why it is canted on the ground is not clear. Its legs are not visible (they apparently are relatively small), so it is hard to say whether one buckled or not.

The launch platform might have sustained damage but they have another ready to go. It is even conceivable that they could fly this prototype again, though they already have prototype #8 waiting in the wings.

Regardless, expect SpaceX to keep its fast development pace going. I would not be surprised if they attempt another test flight in less than two weeks.

Screen captures courtesy of the LabPadre live stream.

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18 comments

  • Richard M

    150 meters ain’t much, but it’s 150 meters more than SLS has flown.

    And for less than 1/100th the price so far. (I can’t think SpaceX has spent more than $200 million to date on Starship development.)

  • Michael

    How green was my test.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Totally geeked out watching this flying gas can take off.

    Wife next to me thought it was mildly interesting.

  • Rose

    This tweet links a great tracking video taken from a different angle — one which shows the moment of leg deploy. Unfortunately, SN5 disappears into to dust as they come out, but it reappears long enough for the still photo in that tweet, showing all six stubby legs.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXzPu6MM99Q

    Musk has tweeted out a bit more info:
    * V1.1 legs will be ~60% longer. V2.0 legs will be much wider & taller — like Falcon, but capable of landing on unimproved surfaces & auto-leveling.
    * [In answer to Q: What’s next?] We’ll do several short hops to smooth out launch process, then go high altitude with body flaps.

  • Rose

    Oops, that was the link to the fantastic YouTube video I mentioned, but I had intended to link this parent tweet with the still image: https://twitter.com/TrevorMahlmann/status/1290810985998057473

  • t-dub

    SpaceX just uploaded this fantastic video of the event . . . on board cams etc . . . must watch

    https://youtu.be/s1HA9LlFNM0

  • sippin_bourbon

    Okay, from the SpaceX youtube channel that t-dub just posted, there is a great view from inside, looking down.

    There appears to be a flame on the raptor engine.

    Is there anyone with enough tech knowledge to tell me if that is normal, like a safe vapor burn off, or if it is bad, because of a leak?

  • janyuary

    Richard M: Not much??!!? Wow it seemed like a lot to me! WOW wow I love being able to watch the different videos. WOW!

    NOTE TO SPACE X: I bet this AWESOME thing!! would fly even better if Wile. E. Coyote was painted on it, saddled up and ready to ride!

  • sippin_bourbon

    “would fly even better if Wile. E. Coyote was painted on it, saddled up and ready to ride!”

    I cannot express exactly how much I want to see that.

  • James Street

    My project this summer is painting the exterior of my house. I’m using Minwax Wood Hardener by the gallon in my prep work. I’m noticing a suspicious similarity between the Minwax can and Starship SN5:
    https://d1le2g414fmih7.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/027426417007-600×600.jpg

    With the mainstream media constantly telling us how bad we are, this last week has been magical with Elon Musk showing us the exceptionalism of human potential.

  • Rose

    sippin_bourbon, there’s a lot of speculation on various boards regarding that fire. Exhaust recirculation appearing as flames high among the engines is a common sight during rocket flights, but this looks more localized. The Raptor engine uses a Full Flow Staged Combustion cycle, so it isn’t regular gas generator exhaust either. So, no, I don’t think it’s normal. A plumbing leak of some sort seems the most popular suspect.

  • Jay

    Thanks for the link t-dub! That was so cool with the view inside with the engine.

    I agree with Janyuary on Wile E. Coyote. He is probably the patron saint to us engineers or at least showing us that persistence is a virtue.

  • Capt. J Parker

    Great picture of shock diamonds in the exhaust jet.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shock_diamond

  • Star Bird

    Okay lets launch the S.S. Botony Bay and have the Democrats aboard

  • Looks like the leaning Tower of Space X.

  • janyuary

    One guy on another article here at Behind the Black commented:

    “THE SILO HAS LANDED.”

  • Rose

    Scott Manley has a video out on this hop:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG9twP82Acw
    (11:05)

    He touches on the engine fire briefly, expressing doubt that it was a leak, thinking it more likely surface contamination which caught fire.

    I thought the best point of his video was a bit over seven minutes in when he points out that the 20 ton mass simulator (the steel box on top containing two 10-ton stainless-steel rolls, to simulate the mass of the missing structures) raises the center of gravity, making the offset single engine less of an issue to overcome.

    At this stage of Raptor development, I believe the engines have a lot of diagnostic/test plumbing (in order to sense pressures at various points in the system) which will be absent from later versions. I don’t know that we will ever hear an official statement on that small fire, but I wouldn’t be surprised it if turned out to be a small leak from one of those pressure taps.

  • Chris

    Capt. J Parker –

    I noted the shock diamonds too. I have seen these in the past on other engines – mostly aircraft as I recall. Is there a way to “read” them? ie does the spacing tell one about some harmonic or whatever?

    Ah answered my own question:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shock_diamond

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