Starship cleared on landmark pressure test – now for an engine
The launch could means big things for the future of space travel from American land.
Late on Sunday evening, at their launch site along the South Texas-Mexico border, SpaceX – the space transportation company led by Elon Musk – successfully completed a critical cryogenic test of its Starship prototype, said Musk on Twitter.
The test involved chilled nitrogen being loaded into pressurised fuel tanks. The Starship vehicle, named SN4 – which stands for Serial Number 4 -– was pressurised to 4.9 times the atmospheric pressure at the Earth’s surface. This level of pressure is enough for basic flight.
This test is a landmark is an important step for the Starship program to establish the integrity of a rocket’s fuelling system. Since November 2019, Starship has had three full-scale prototype failures due to cryogenic pressure testing.
The next step is for SpaceX engineers is to conduct a static fire engine testing with a reusable Raptor engine. Should the engine be successfully lit, Musk has reported hoping the SN4 vehicle will meet a 150-meter “hop” test, for which the company has not yet received regulatory approval.
SpaceX already has also built most of the parts for its SN5 vehicle to attempt a higher flight using reusable Raptor engines. Musk said, if all goes well with SN4, the plan is to attach three Raptors to SN5 for a higher flight test later this spring.
Sunday’s test was the latest in SpaceX’s build-test-fly-iterate process that has seen them learn quickly from failures and churn out new prototypes within months. Starship is the “upper stage” of a “Super Heavy” two-part, totally reusable launch system, that will carry cargo or dozens of passengers to outerspace.
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