After a year 2020 marked by the first test flight of the Starship, SpaceX's future reusable interplanetary ship, Elon Musk plans to multiply the tests from the start of the 'next year. A first prototype of the Falcon Heavy booster will also be deployed.
SpaceX plans to ramp up its Starship development program in the new year. Speaking on Twitter, Elon Musk recently pointed out that the company will be relying on both launch pads at its facility in Boca Chica, Texas, with Starship prototypes installed on each. The Super Heavy booster, supposed to propel the Starship into space, will also begin its first tests “in a few months “, he assured.
The next Starship test could come very quickly. We know that the SN9 prototype was transferred from its hangar to the launch pad on December 24th. This vehicle is likely to undergo a more streamlined ground test campaign than the SN8, perhaps requiring only one cryogenic test (loading the tanks with liquid nitrogen), followed by three static shots. If these tests go well and SpaceX obtains regulatory approval, SN9 could make its test flight before the end of the year or possibly in early 2021.
Just like its predecessor, the now famous Starship SN8, the SN9 should operate a test flight at an altitude of 12.5 kilometers. Again, this will require the ship to return to Earth at an angle of attack of approximately 70-80 degrees, so that it can bleed off velocity, and then rely on reaction control thrusters to perform perform a "belly flop", so as to return to an upright position in preparation for landing.
In the meantime, the SN10 has just been fitted with its "nose" and "fins", while the following prototypes are already in the assembly phase. Thanks to all these machines, and its two launch pads, SpaceX is thus giving itself the chance to multiply the tests before operating a first suborbital test at an altitude of 200 km next year.
Meanwhile, the announcement of the Super Heavy's upcoming first tests is reason to be excited for 2021. As a reminder, this is the booster that SpaceX will use to propel the Starship into space from Earth.
This first Super Heavy prototype, currently being assembled, might only work with two Raptor engines, but eventually this gigantic structure of more than 70 meters high will have no less than 28 of these engines. Enough to offer enough lifting capacity to get out of the earth's gravity.