Two weeks ago SpaceX launched the Starship SN8 prototype on its first high-altitude test flight at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. The incredible flight showcased SpaceX’s engineering talent as the stainless-steel SN8 vehicle lifted off approximately 40,000 feet (12-kilometers) and performed a ‘belly flip’ maneuver while gliding down the sky. Starship SN8 was the first vehicle to test aerodynamic flaps and three Raptor engines. Even though the vehicle exploded upon landing, the test flight offered engineers insight towards the spacecraft’s overall development.
Now, SpaceX teams are preparing the next Starship prototype – SN9 – to perform the next test flight. A high production rate enables engineers to test and iterate quickly; Multiple prototypes of Starship are under assembly simultaneously to increase testing rate. Last week, SpaceX planned to rollout Starship SN9 to the launch pad but a transport mount collapsed; SN9 tipped on one side inside a high-bay at the assembly site, causing damage on one of its aerodynamic flaps. Teams fixed the issue by installing a new flap. The flap was taken from Starship SN10, which is undergoing assembly alongside SN11. The founder of SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk said he expects at least 20 Starship prototypes to undergo testing at Boca Chica before attempting to test launch one to orbit.
This morning, the Starship SN9 vehicle was transported to Launch Pad B at Boca Chica. Residents captured photographs of the vehicle being rolled out of the assembly site and transported to the nearby launch site less than three miles down the road, pictured below. We could soon see the Starship SN9 vehicle take flight!
In the days ahead, teams will perform a series of pre-flight preparations to assess if the Starship SN9 vehicle is ready to be launched. The first set of tests are expected to be proof tests, performed with ultra-cold liquid nitrogen that will pressurize the stainless-steel vehicle to assess it’s overall structural integrity. If SN9 passes the proof tests, engineers will move on to test its Raptor engine trio during a static-fire test. A static-firing is also a routine pre-flight preparation meant to assess each engines’ performance ahead of flight. According to Cameron County Boca Chica Beach road closure announcements, SpaceX could start performing work on the Starship SN9 vehicle from December 28 to December 30 during time frames scheduled at 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Central Time. You can watch SpaceX operations Live in the video below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
WATCH IT LIVE!