Tag Archives: Starship

SpaceX destroys Starship prototype #7, as planned

Capitalism in space: SpaceX last night successfully pressurized its seventh Starship prototype to failure, as planned.

The culmination of three nights and more than 20 hours of concerted effort, SpaceX was finally able to fill Starship test tank SN7.1 with several hundred tons of liquid nitrogen before dawn on September 23rd. With just an hour left in the day’s test window, SpaceX closed the tank’s vents, allowing its cryogenic contents to boil into gas and expand with no outlet. At 4:57 am CDT, SN7.1 burst, bringing its lengthy test campaign to a decisive end.

I have embedded video of the test below the fold.

With the completion of this test the way is now clear for the 60,000 foot hop of Starship prototype #8, no earlier than October 11th.
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The frozen and changing mid-latitudes of Mars

Glacial erosion on Mars
Click for full image.

Using “frozen” and “changing” to describe any single location might seem contradictory, but when it comes to the mid-latitudes of Mars, high resolution images keep telling us that both often apply, at the same time and at the same place.

The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, is a typical example. Taken on May 8, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), it shows what the scientists label as “mesas and ridges.” Drainage is to the south, and it sure looks like some sort of glacial flow is working its way downward within the canyons between those mesas.

Overall the terrain has the appearance of a frozen ice sheet, or at least terrain that has a shallow ice table close to the surface. It also looks like chaos terrain in its infancy, the erosion process not yet cutting down enough to make the mesas stand out fully.

The location of these mesas and ridges is shown in the context map below, which also shows that this location is at the same latitude as SpaceX’s Starship prime Martian landing site, and only about 400 to 500 miles to the east.
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Next Starship test flight to go to 60,000 feet

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has decided, after two successful 500 foot hops using its fifth and sixth Starship prototypes, to forego further hops with those prototypes and instead test fly prototype number eight to a height of 60,000 feet, about 11 miles.

Starship SN5 and SN6 were set to become a tag-team, flying 150-meter hops to refine the launch and landing techniques that SpaceX has pioneered with its Falcon 9 rocket. However, with SN5’s hop proving to be a success, followed by a notable improvement with SN6’s leap to 150 meters a few weeks later, it’s likely SpaceX is now confident of advancing to the next milestone.

The company has applied for an FCC license to do the flight anytime from Oct ’20 to April ’21, with October 11th being the first available date.

In the meantime the company plans a pressure tank test to failure of prototype #7, probably later this week.

In other related news at the second link, Boeing and Firefly have also applied for FCC licenses, the former for a Starliner demo mission from November ’20 to May ’21, the latter for its first launch of its smallsat Alpha rocket, also from November ’20 to May ’21.

Update on Starship development

Capitalism in space: Link here. The update outlines the status of Starship prototypes #5, #6, #7, #8, #9 as well as the first Super Heavy prototype, all of which are being prepped for future tests.

It is expected that #7 will be tested next, a tank pressure test intended to be tested to failure sometime in the next few weeks. The goal here is to obtain the engineering limits of the alloy being used in this particular prototype so that engineers will know how to use it in future builds.

The icy Erebus Mountains near where Starship will land on Mars

Overview of all SpaceX images in Arcadia Planitia

Glacial filled crater in Erebus Montes
Click for full image.

It has been several months since I posted any new photos of the region on Mars which SpaceX considers its prime candidate landing site for its Starship spacecraft/rocket, now under development. The map to the right shows the location of all the images that SpaceX has obtained from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) of this landing region, located in the northern lowland plains at the border between Arcadia and Amazonis and to the east of the Erebus Mountains. (See my post on November 13, 2019 for an analysis of the reasoning for SpaceX to choose this region, along with links to each of the numbered images.)

Time to take another look, this time at the very center of the southern cluster of the Erebus mountains. The crater to the right, its location indicated by the tiny red rectangle on the map above, was taken by MRO on May 6, 2020, and shows the typical glacial features scientists find in mid-latitude Martian craters. The floor appears filled with glacial material, with the repeated cyclical flows repeatedly coming down off the north-facing interior rim. That rim would generally be colder and get less sunlight, so snowfall is more likely to pile up there and then flow downward like a glacier, only to sublimate away once it moves out of shadow.

What makes these mountains enticing, only about 400 miles from the Starship landing zone, is not simply what is inside this crater, but what surrounds it. Below is the wider view provided by MRO’s context camera.
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Another successful Starship prototype hop

Starship prototype #6 in flight

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully completed a 150-meter high hop of its sixth Starship prototype, the second such hop but the first for this prototype. They have now flown two different prototypes, plus Starhopper, all successfully. No flight failures, so far.

Next they will be doing a pressure tank test, to failure, of the seventh prototype. That prototype is using what they think will be a better steel alloy, and they want to find out its limits. I have also heard that they will either fly this prototype again or fly the fifth again, sometime in the next two weeks.

I have embedded a few more images below the fold.
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SpaceX attempting another Starship hop today

Capitalism in space: Engineers at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas are today preparing the sixth Starship prototype for its first 150 meter hop, the second hop of a Starship prototype overall.

The launch window is anytime between 8 am and 8 pm (Central). I have embedded the livesteam below the fold if you wish to watch. Based on previous attempts, they will try for a morning launch before noon, and if there are issues they will recycle and try again in the afternoon.
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Musk gives update on Starship/Super Heavy

Capitalism in space: During a phone conversation at a conference earlier this week, SpaceX founder Elon Musk gave an update on the development of Starship/Super Heavy, intended to be the first completely reusable rocket.

He did not reveal much that isn’t already known but his broad overview is helpful for understand what is happening at the company’s development facility in Boca Chica, Texas. One detail of note:

Asked on Monday when SpaceX might perform the first orbital Starship launch and re-entry, Musk replied: “Probably next year.”

“I hope we do a lot of flights,” Musk continued. “The first ones might not work. This is uncharted territory. Nobody has ever made a fully reusable orbital rocket. So just having that at all is pretty significant.”

Musk also said that they plan to do a lot of orbital flights before upgrading the ship for humans. I think his experience with Dragon has influenced him on this score.

SpaceX scrubs Starship prototype hop

Capitalism in space: Though it appeared twice today that SpaceX engineers were on the verge of executing their second Starship prototype hop, the first for prototype #6, in both cases they stood down.

It appears according to road closures in Boca Chica they will try again tomorrow. The live stream is available here. The closures go from 8 am to 8 pm (Central), within which the hop could occur at almost any time, but likely not before 9 am.

Sixth Starship prototype completes static fire engine test

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s sixth Starship prototype yesterday successfully completed its first static fire engine test.

Below is a six-second video of that test. Assuming this test went well, it appears they are aiming to do a 150 meter hop this coming weekend (around August 29-30), adding even more excitement to this week’s busy rocket schedule.

SpaceX ups fund-raising effort from one to two billion

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has apparently raised $2 billion during an on-going investment capital round, double what the company had initially expected.

This means that SpaceX has now raised $4 billion in private investment in the last year, the bulk of which the company says it is devoting to Starship. However, they have also said that for this most recent round some of the monies will go to making their Starlink satellite internet constellation operational. With 595 satellites already in orbit, and good testing ongoing, it appears a lot of investors want to get in on the game.

SpaceX begins first tests of Starship’s thermal tiles

Link here. They have already flown some tiles on both a Dragon cargo flight as well as Starhopper’s one flight. They are now accelerating the work by testing the installation of a lot of hexagon-shapped tiles directly onto the steel hull of the Starship prototypes. From the article:

Behind the scenes, SpaceX is assuredly performing extensive laboratory-style tests with tiles and an agreement signed with NASA Ames Research Center confirmed that the company is using the facility’s arcjet to physically simulate the conditions of orbital-velocity reentry. Tests on the scale of a full Starship, however, are an entirely different story.

The first signs of large-scale heat shield installation testing appeared on July 9th when local resident and photographer Andrew Goetsch (Nomadd) captured photos of a test coupon covering half of an entire steel Starship ring. In April 2020, CEO Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter that the current design involved affixed heat shield tiles directly to Starship’s steel hull with steel studs. It’s unclear how exactly the company is installing steel studs directly onto the ~4mm (0.15 in) thick skins of a pressure vessel or if an off -the-shelf solution was available but Nomadd’s July 9th photos explicitly show the process required to refine the settings on the mystery stud installer.

The article has some good pictures. Expect to see a lot of these tiles on the surface of future prototypes.

SpaceX prepares sixth Starship prototype for hop

Capitalism in space: Having moved its fifth Starship prototype back to its facility at Boca Chica for repairs to its legs following its first light, SpaceX is simultaneously preparing its sixth Starship prototype for its own hops.

They plan more short hops to smooth out the launch process, aiming for the ability to do several per day, followed later by a much higher altitude hop. Expect the next hop within about two weeks.

SpaceX to build resort near Boca Chica

Capitalism in space: SpaceX is seeking to hire a manager to lead the design and construction of a resort near Boca Chica for future spaceport customers.

The job posting seeks a manger to “oversee the development of SpaceX’s first resort from inception to completion,” with the ultimate aim of turning Boca Chica into a “21st century Spaceport.” That would include overseeing the entire design and construction process, as well as getting all necessary work permits and regulatory approvals, and completing the ultimate build of the facility.

Makes perfect financial sense, assuming Starship does eventually fly. Customers will need and expect a nice place to stay before and after their flights, and SpaceX has the land and is best positioned for providing it. And even if Starship doesn’t fly, during the rocket’s development there is money to be made providing tourists the best viewpoint for watching test flights, while also creating a source of profit independent of actual flight.

Fifth Starship prototype flies!

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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Starship hop today?

UPDATE: They are close to trying again. If you refresh your screen, you will now have two iterations of the live stream. This will allow you to have two cameras visible at the same time, You can show the main “nerdie” camera on one, with their commentary, and show the wider “sapphire” camera on the second. You pick cameras by clicking on the camera icon in the menu bar at the bottom of the screen.

UPDATE: First attempt apparently aborted. No word yet if they will attempt again today.

UPDATE: Scrubbed on August 3rd, attempting again on August 4th.

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s Starship team has scheduled the first 500 foot hop of the fifth Starship prototype today, after canceling yesterday’s attempt.

The window for Starship SN5’s 150m hop debut now stretches from 8am to 8pm CDT (13:00-01:00 UTC) on Monday, August 3rd. It’s currently unknown if SpaceX will offer its own live coverage of the test flight but several unofficial streams will likely be available from NASASpaceflight.com, LabPadre, SPadre, and more. Stay tuned for updates!

I have embedded LabPadre’s live stream below the fold, if you wish to run it in the background. They will have commentary when they note a “pad clear” signal.
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Starship fifth prototype set for first 500 foot hop

Capitalism in space: SpaceX fifth Starship prototype has passed all of its static fire tests and is now ready for its first flight, a 500 foot vertical hop.

That hop should occur within days.

I have embedded a nice video that summarizes well all of the work being done right now at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas, including the construction of large assembly buildings for both Starship and Super Heavy.
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SpaceX to raise another billion in private investment capital

Capitalism in space: SpaceX is now in the process of raising another billion dollars in private investment capital in order to fund both its Starlink and Starship projects.

Space Exploration Technologies, Elon Musk’s reusable rocket venture, is in talks to raise $1 billion in series N funding at a valuation of $44 billion, according to documents reviewed by CNBC. SpaceX plans to use the funding to make its Starlink satellite broadband service operational, and to conduct suborbital and orbital test flights of its Starship and SuperHeavy booster launch vehicle.

Up to now SpaceX has raised just under $2 billion in private capital, which they had said was devoted solely to developing Starship. The company had also said that it was developing Starlink with in-house funds. It appears that — having gotten almost 400 satellites in orbit (with many more coming) — they are now willing to seek outside help to make the Starlink system operational, because this situation allows SpaceX to negotiate the best deal with any investor.

It must also be emphasized that SpaceX is developing Starship/Super Heavy entirely from private funds, not government subsidies. This lack of government funds also means a lack of government oversight, which gives SpaceX complete freedom during development. Government oversight would only slow things down and likely prevent the company from innovating.

Instead, it is free to build the first completely reuseable rocket that also happens to be as powerful as a Saturn 5. And it will do it for less total than NASA has and will spend each year on SLS, for more than twenty years.

Starship prototype being prepped for first hop

Capitalism in space: SpaceX engineers, having successfully completed its tank pressure tests of its fifth Starship prototype, are now preparing the ship for its first static fire engine test, to be followed very quickly thereafter by its first hop to 150 meters.

SN5 [the fifth prototype] is being prepped for a flight test right out of the gate. SpaceX does not plan to perform an extended ground test campaign with SN5 after beginning Raptor engine testing.

It is understood that one good static fire test could be enough to clear the way for a 150-meter hop test. Furthermore, only a few days may be required to prepare SN5 for the flight test following a successful static fire test. If a static fire occurs this weekend, this will put the earliest possible hop date in the first half of next week.

As always, this schedule could change during testing.

The article also describes the status of both the sixth prototype, as well as the eighth being assembled now, noting that “if the 150-meter flight of Starship SN5 is successful, SpaceX is expected to quickly move on to Starship SN8 for an upcoming higher altitude flight test – potentially skipping a flight test with the SN6 prototype.”

Update on Starship test program: First tests for prototype #5

Link here. Lots of good information, including details about the growing assembly line of new Raptor engines.

Meanwhile, labeled “27”, the engine – logically assumed to be Raptor SN27 – SpaceX has just installed on Starship SN5 is also of interest. On top of Musk’s recent confirmation that SpaceX is already building Raptor SN30 (probably SN31 or SN32, now), SN27’s assignment to Starship SN5 confirms that the company has managed to complete (and test) at least one next-generation engines every other week since the first full-scale engine shipped to McGregor, Texas in February 2019.

For a brand new engine as complex as Raptor, that’s an impressive production milestone. Per Musk, the end-goal is to produce at least one Raptor per day in the near term – a necessity given that each Starship and Super Heavy booster pair will require at least 37 engines. To feasibly build a fleet of tens – let alone hundreds or thousands – of Starships and boosters, one engine per day is arguably the bare minimum required just for early orbital launch attempts and initial operations.

They hope to start static fire tests, with prototype #5 by July 8th. If these go well they will likely follow soon thereafter with the first short vertical hop.

Starship prototype #5 passes cryogenic test

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s fifth Starship prototype #5 last night successfully completed a cryogenic test of its tanks, setting the stage for its first vertical test flight.

SpaceX’s Starship SN5 prototype performed a cryogenic proof test at the launch provider’s Boca Chica, Texas facility on Tuesday evening. The test marked a rapid recovery for SpaceX – managing to return to testing a month after the previous vehicle exploded on the pad.

The cryogenic proof is when the vehicle’s propellant tanks are filled with liquid nitrogen and pressurized to flight pressures. Then, hydraulic pistons (otherwise known as a thrust simulator) press against the base of the vehicle to mimic the force of a Raptor engine. The proof test will ensure that Starship SN5 is structurally sound ahead of testing with liquid oxygen and methane. Unlike oxygen and methane, nitrogen is inert and will not combust if something were to go wrong.

The article at the link gives a nice overview of the test program, and what is to come next.

SpaceX tests 7th Starship test prototype to failure

Capitalism in space: As they had planned, SpaceX has done a tank pressure test of its seventh Starship prototype to failure, destroying the prototype.

This was actually the second test to failure for this tank, which is testing a new stainless steel alloy. The first had only sprung a leak that could be repaired.

Deemed 304L, the type of steel is still readily available off the shelf and only 10-20% more expensive than the 301 alloy SpaceX has used to build all Starship prototypes up to SN7. The biggest change it brings to the table is improved ductility (malleability), particularly at the cryogenic temperatures Starship’s tanks will often be held at. By reducing brittleness, Starships built out of 304L steel should be able to fail far more gracefully by developing stable leaks instead of violently decompressing. In fact, the very same test tank destroyed on June 23rd demonstrated that capability perfectly when it sprung a leak during its first pressure test on June 15th.

During its first cryogenic pressure test with liquid nitrogen, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed that the SN7 test tank managed to reach 7.6 bar (~110 psi) before it began to leak – technically satisfactory for orbital Starship launches with an industry-standard 25% safety factor. Thanks to the general flexibility of steel, including the new 304L alloy SN7 was built with, SpaceX was able to simply repair the leak it identified, readying the test tank for a second cryogenic pressure test barely a week later.

Below the fold are two videos showing this second failure. Unlike earlier tests using different alloys, the tank does not go flying hundreds of feet into the air. The rupture seems more gentle, if I can use such a word for such a failure.

They have another tank ready to go, so testing should proceed quickly even after this test failure. And they also are prepping the full scale #5 Starship prototype for testing, which if all goes well will include actual test hops.
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Trump official skeptical of point-to-point suborbital transportation

During the FAA’s annual commercial space conference, the executive secretary for Trump’s National Space Council, Scott Pace, expressed strong skepticism about plans by some companies to develop point-to-point transportation using suborbital spacecraft.

“I still see that as somewhat speculative and somewhat over the horizon,” he said. “I see us working right now on trying to get the suborbital market up, running and sort of stabilized. I think people look forward to the possibility of point-to-point passenger and cargo travel, but right now just getting routine suborbital access to space and pushing hard on the unmanned hypersonic and military applications is where the action is.”

“Maybe it’s not too soon to think about,” he added, “but I still think that’s a bit farther out until I see how the initial market settles out.”

In this context Pace noted his primary focus was in helping Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin get their space tourism businesses off the ground. Virgin Galactic has been making noises that it wants to do point-to-point transportation as well. His skepticism of this is actually quite realistic, since Virgin Galactic has not even completed its first commercial tourism flight and its rocket and spacecraft are underpowered as well.

If Pace’s skepticism is however aimed at SpaceX’s Starship plans to do point-to-point transportation, he is exhibiting a typical Washington bureaucrat’s timidity about new technology.

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic has gotten a contract from NASA to train private astronauts. To my mind this is NASA’s attempt to keep this company above water, as it certainly isn’t the most qualified to do this kind of training. If I wanted training for going on a private space mission, SpaceX and Boeing would be better places to get that preparation.

The deal however has done wonders for Virgin Galactic’s stock, causing it to rise almost 16% yesterday following the announcement of this contract. Great timing for Richard Branson, who by coincidence just happens to be trying to sell some of his stock at this moment.

Three Starship prototypes in line for testing

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s assembly line for building Starship prototypes is heating up, with three such ships completed or under construction in Boca Chica, Texas.

Initially numbered 5 through 7, the goal of the first two will be to do the first full scale vertical hops, flying as high as 7.5 miles.. #7 however has a different purpose:

While stouter than an actual Starship-class methane or oxygen tank, this particular test tank is maybe only 25% shorter than the methane tanks installed on Starship prototypes. According to Musk and effectively confirmed by writing all over the prototype, this particular test tank – formerly Starship SN7 – was built to determine if a different kind of steel could be preferable for future ships.

Shortly after the June 15th test began to wind down, Musk announced that the new material (304L stainless steel) had performed quite well, reaching 7.6 bar (110 psi) before it sprung a leak. The fact alone that it sprung a leak instead of violently depressurizing is already a major sign that 304L is preferable to 301L, as it means that Starships built out of it could fail much more gracefully in the event of a leak instead of collapsing or violently exploding. A step further, SpaceX has already managed to repair the leak on SN7 and will likely test the tank again in the next few days.

SpaceX is once again demonstrating how to properly do this kind of cutting edge development. You test, you fix or, you change, based on what your tests tell you. You don’t lock down design in the early stages, because at that point you really don’t know enough to do so.

SpaceX hiring engineers for building floating Starship spaceport

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has issued advertisements looking for two engineers to help build an offshore floating spaceport for launching its Starship/Super Heavy reusable rocket.

This plan is not really a surprise, as Musk from his first description of Starship said that it would likely launch and land on floating platforms. The rocket is big, so putting its launch and landing in the ocean reduces the risk to populated areas, while giving the company some flexibility about where it will land. The latter point reinforces the company’s stated goal of using this rocket not only to make interplanetary travel affordable but to also provide point-to-point transportation on Earth.

NASA endorsement allows SpaceX to shift focus to Starship

Capitalism in space: Three different news stories today about SpaceX point out strongly the direction in which the company is heading, both in its design focus and in where it will be doing it.

First, SpaceX has informed the Port of Los Angeles that it is now definitely abandoning all plans to establish a Starship manufacturing facility there.

The company made this announcement on March 27th, which means it is not directly related to the tiff that Musk had with Alameda County officials about keeping his Tesla factory open during the California Wuhan panic lock down, which occurred in early May. Nonetheless, this decision, combined with Musk’s May 9th statement that he was going to move Tesla from California, suggests strongly that he and SpaceX is losing patience with California politics, and is likely to increasingly minimize the presence of Musk’s companies there.

This also means that the company will be expanding its Starship operations in both Texas and Florida.

In a second related story, it appears that — with the success of the first manned Dragon mission — Musk now wants SpaceX to shift its development focus entirely to Starship. Prior to that successful Dragon launch, NASA had made it clear that it did not want the company distracted by Starship, and instead stay focused on fixing any issue that might delay Dragon. As NASA is SpaceX’s biggest customer, the company was obliged to comply.

With the Dragon success however SpaceX has completed the job, so Musk now feels free to shift the company’s development teams over to Starship. And NASA is even helping him do this (today’s third SpaceX story) by agreeing at last to permit the company to use reused Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsules for future manned missions.

In a wholly unexpected turn of events, a modification to SpaceX’s ~$3.1 billion NASA Commercial Crew Program (CCP) contract was spotted on June 3rd. Without leaving much room for interpretation, the contract tweak states that SpaceX is now “[allowed to reuse] the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Crew Dragon spacecraft beginning with” its second operational astronaut launch, known as Post Certification Mission-2 (PCM-2) or Crew-2.

NASA in the past was very slow to accept the use of reused capsules and rockets. It now appears they have abandoned this reluctance entirely, so much so that we could even see American astronauts flying into space on a reused rocket and in a reused capsule before the end of the year.

I want to pause to let this fact sink in. SpaceX has turned what what was considered only a few years ago as an absurd, dangerous, and wholly insane idea into the only and right way to do things.

This big endorsement of reusability by NASA also means that the agency is now willing to let SpaceX make its shift to Starship, since refurbishing rockets and capsules does not take the manpower as building new equipment.

Expect the action in Boca Chica to ramp up quite spectacularly this summer.

Musk confirms cause of most recent Starship prototype failure

Capitalism in space: During a press event following the successful launch of SpaceX’s first manned Dragon, Elon Musk confirmed that the cause of the most recent Starship prototype failure was a leak at the connection point, called a quick disconnect or QD, for one of the umbilical cords that fuel the spacecraft.

If so, this cause is generally good engineering news, as it indicates the problem was not related to the prototype itself but with equipment that is more easily fixed. The article at the link notes:

Given that Starships are currently being tested independently on spartan launch mounts, it’s unclear if the current generation of prototypes has been outfitted with advanced QD panels. More likely, Musk was referring to a test of a less advanced QD panel similar to the rough version used on Starhopper last year, and SpaceX simply wanted to test its ability to disconnect and reconnect to Starship on command.

The explosion itself had not only completely destroyed the prototype, it rendered the test stand unusable. Yet, as another demonstration of SpaceX’s agility and competence as a company, the test stand was “fully dismantled and scrapped in the two days since the anomaly.”

Two days! More important, the fifth prototype is ready to go, with a sixth almost finished. They expect to resume tests before the end of the month.

Explosion during test of 4th Starship prototype

Capitalism in space: SpaceX engineers experienced another explosion during testing of their fourth Starship prototype today, completely destroying the protoype.

They already have their fifth prototype almost complete, so I expect they will clean up the debris, analyze again what went wrong, and start testing again.

At a certain point however these explosions have got to end, or else the project will begin to be in trouble.

New Starship engine test; launch license issued

Capitalism in space: Yesterday SpaceX completed a new static fire engine test of its fourth Starship prototype while also obtaining a two-year launch license from the FAA for a future short up-and-down test hops

SpaceX briefly fired up the single Raptor engine of Starship SN4, the latest prototype of the company’s Mars-colonizing spaceship. The Raptor blazed for a few seconds while the SN4 remained tethered to the ground at SpaceX’s facilities near the South Texas village of Boca Chica. It was the fourth “static fire” test for the SN4, and the second with this particular Raptor engine. The previous static fire blazed a little hot, scorching the base of the spacecraft, but the flames seemed to behave themselves this time around.

Musk has said he wants to take the SN4 out for a spin soon, on an uncrewed test flight to a target altitude of about 500 feet (150 meters). With four static fires now in the books, SN4 seems poised to take that leap. But the prototype won’t get off the ground before Demo-2 does. “I have redirected SpaceX’s priorities to be very focused on the crew launch,” Musk told Aviation Week & Space Technology’s Irene Klotz recently. “As a rough guess, I think we’re a few weeks away from a hop.”

SpaceX has its paperwork in order to take Starship prototypes pretty high up, by the way. Today [now yesterday], the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation issued the company a two-year license to launch suborbital flights from the Boca Chica site.

Note that whatever caused the fire that occurred in the previous static fire test has apparently been identified and quickly resolved.

SpaceX raises $346 million more in investment capital

Capitalism in space: According to Elon Musk, SpaceX has raised an additional $346 million more in investment capital.

According to the very short article at the link, this brings the total raised during this latest fund-raising round to $567 million. This is puzzling, as in March SpaceX announced that it had raised $500 million in this round. If the company has raised an additional $346, the total should be higher.

Either way, this brings the total raised by the company to close to $2 billion, almost all of which is being dedicated to building Starship & Super Heavy. Compared to what NASA spends on SLS/Orion — about $3 billion per year with a total about $50 billion when its first manned mission occurs finally in 2024 — this is chicken feed. However, for a private company fueled by competition and good management (unlike NASA), it is likely more than enough to get the job done.

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