Link here. Not only have the engines been installed on the tenth Starship prototype, the static fire test is set for this week, maybe as early as today. It appears they are trying to launch the next test flight before the end of February.
At landing they will now fire all three engines, in case one or more fail to light (as happened with prototype #9), and then shut down all but one immediately and let that do the landing burn. This adds redundancy and increases the odds of a successful landing.
The article also provides a detailed update on the status of future Starship and Super Heavy test articles. While #11 is being readied for launch, it appears that, based on what has been learned from #8 and #9, they are dismantling prototypes #12-14 and incorporating changes to #15, which will likely fly after #11.
One aspect of this development program struck me today. These prototypes are essentially expendable rockets. Like it did with its early expendable Falcon 9, SpaceX is using these throw-away prototypes to test ways to make them more reusable and reliable. Unlike the Falcon 9s, however, the company isn’t using these prototypes to launch payloads, at least not at this stage. It isn’t good enough that these prototypes can successfully launch. They must be able to land as well.
I suspect that once during this test program the full rocket begins to reach orbit SpaceX will add payloads, even as they continue to test re-entry and landing. The early flights might produce rockets that successfully bring satellites into space but end up getting destroyed upon return. Those loses will then be used to make later ships better and more likely to return intact.
Eventually, we will have a rocket entirely reusable and flying multiple times, just like the Falcon 9 first stage.
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.
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon
, Barnes & Noble
, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit
And if you buy it from ebookit
you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.