Capitalism in space: According to Elon Musk, a small leak of methane from one tank caused the failure of the eleventh Starship prototype. From Musk’s tweet:
Ascent phase, transition to horizontal & control during free fall were good.
A (relatively) small CH4 leak led to fire on engine 2 & fried part of avionics, causing hard start attempting landing burn in CH4 turbopump.
This is getting fixed 6 ways to Sunday.
Meanwhile, prototype #15 is getting prepped for rollout to the launchpad (Numbers 12-14 were scrapped), and the first prototype of first stage Super Heavy is being assembled to testing. It is presently unclear when either will take place, though the company still has a target date of July for its first orbital launch. According to Musk, the first orbital prototypes of Starship will be those numbered 20 or higher.
“Those ships will be orbit-capable with heat shield & stage separation system,” Musk tweeted. “Ascent success probability is high. However, SN20+ vehicles will probably need many flight attempts to survive Mach 25 entry heating & land intact.”
Knowing those first orbital ships will likely not land properly raises the question as to where they will be aimed to come down. SpaceX now owns two retired floating oil platforms, and is preparing them for use by Starship/Super Heavy. It could very well be that test flights of prototype #20+ will take place to and from those pads, out in the ocean, so as to minimize any risk to populated areas. Doing so will also allow SpaceX to hone its procedures for moving these big spaceships to and from the platforms.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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