Capitalism in space: SpaceX engineers have removed Starship prototype #15, the first to successfully land after a test flight, from the launchpad and rolled back towards their assembly building.
They had already removed its three Raptor engines and landing legs for inspection, but taking the ship off the launchpad strongly suggests the company has decided to not fly it again.
The immediate assumption is that they will now fly prototype #16, built and ready for launch. The article however speculates something far more intriguing:
There’s a limited possibility that Starship SN16 – all but finished – could be sent to the launch site instead of heading straight to the scrapyard, but any testing would necessarily delay orbital pad construction and any flight activity would likely have to expend SN16 in the ocean rather than risk a land landing.
Ultimately, it’s looking more and more likely that SpaceX would rather go all-in on Starship’s inaugural orbital launch attempt, even if that means little to no ground or flight test availability for a few months.
Prototype #20 had been assigned that for that first near-orbital flight. Does this mean SpaceX has decided abandon #16 through #19 and to go straight to that orbital flight? To do this would also mean they have decided to forego any separate testing of Superheavy, and will instead fly it the first time with a Starship upper stage attached. It would also be the only possible way they could meet their July target date for that orbital flight.
If #16 does not move immediately to the launchpad and there are no Starship test flights for the next month or so, it will tell us that this is likely their plan.
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