Today, June 23, SpaceX teams conducted a cryogenic pressure test on the Starship SN7 dome tank prototype at the company’s South Texas facility located in Boca Chica Beach. Starship will be a stainless-steel spacecraft capable of transporting one hundred passengers on long-duration voyages to the moon, Mars, and beyond. Engineers are in the initial phase of developing the vehicle. The SN7 dome tank serves as a manufacturing pathfinder towards developing the craft. During today’s test, SN7 was filled with sub-cooled liquid nitrogen and it was intentionally pressurized to the max – until it popped and collapsed on its side, shown in the video below.
This test was performed to determine if 304L stainless-steel is stronger than 301 stainless-steel. Starship needs to be capable of withstanding a pressure strength of 8.6 bar, to carry astronauts aboard. The tanks previous test took the vehicle to a 7.6 bar. SpaceX’s founder and chief engineer Elon Musk shared the SN7 tank – “leaked at 7.6 bar. This is a good result & supports idea of 304L stainless being better than 301. We’re developing our own alloy to take this even further. Leak before burst is highly desirable,” Musk said. He has not revealed yet what strength did the vehicle make it to before it bursted today.
A South Texas resident who has been documenting the site’s construction progress set up live cameras. It captured the video of today’s dome tank pressure test, and for the first time – ‘Zeus’ – SpaceX’s robotic dog was captured walking on the launch pad inspecting the aftermath of SN7’s collapse. In the video below, a four-legged metal creature can be seen roaming through the thick, white clouds of nitrogen. The Robo-Dog is Spot, a tool by Boston Dynamics. The robot has been under development for several years. Last week, Boston Dynamics Spot robots officially went on sale to the general public and SpaceX acquired one.
The robot dog ‘Zeus’ can be a useful tool for SpaceX because it features sensors capable of collecting a variety of data. The Boston Dynamics website details several uses for the Spot Robo-Dog. Some of the features that can be useful for SpaceX will likely be: 360° panoramic cameras to keep the launch pad supervised, noise anomaly detection, thermal inspection, and leak detection. It can be used to inspect Starship prototypes. During tests, the robot will be ideal to detect leaks up close, which can otherwise be dangerous for a human to approach and inspect. SpaceX even set up a little red pet house at the Boca Chica launch pad for ‘Zeus.’