SN4, We Hardly Knew You. Another Starship Prototype Lost!

Earlier today (Friday, May 29th), at 01:49 p.m. local time (02:49 p.m. EDT; 11:49 PDT), SpaceX Starship prototype (SN4) exploded on the company’s test pad near Boca Chica, Texas. The explosion occurred two minutes after ground crews commenced a static fire test of its Raptor engine. This test was intended to test the Raptor and the Starship design once more in preparation for a major milestone – a 150 m (500 ft) hop test – this summer.

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Due to Weather Delay, NASA & SpaceX Push Historic Launch to Saturday

On Wednesday, May 27th, NASA and SpaceX geared up for what was sure to be a historic event! After years of hard work, the Crew Dragon capsule developed through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program would dock with the ISS for the first time. This launch would effectively restore domestic-launch capability to the United States, something it lost in 2011 with the retiring of the Space Shuttle. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t get the memo!

Less than 15 minutes before the Crew Dragon was to launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, mission controllers scrubbed the flight because the weather was not clearing up. As a result, NASA and SpaceX pushed the launch of the Crew Dragon to their two backup launch opportunities, both of which will be happening this weekend.

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The SpaceX Starship Could Fly This Summer!

SpaceX is really coming along with its development of the Starship and Super Heavy launch system. After repeated delays caused by structural failures (aka. explosions), the company got back on track late in April when their fourth prototype (SN4) passed the crucial cryogenic load test. This was followed by a successful static fire test on May 4th, followed by a second static fire test the next day.

And, after being scrubbed three times since last Friday (May 15th), SpaceX conducted the third static fire test with the SN4 on Tuesday, May 19th. Unfortunately, an unexpected fire near the base of the rocket caused the prototype to get a bit scorched and caused some internal damage. However, the prototype survived and is back in working order, which means SpaceX is moving ahead with more tests in preparation for a full-scale launch.

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Another Starship Success! Raptor Engine Fires for 4 Seconds and Nothing Explodes

Last week, SpaceX passed another milestone in the development of its Starship prototype. This was the crucial engine static fire test, which saw the fourth full-scale Starship prototype (SN4) ignite a fully-integrated Raptor engine for the first time. The successful test took place on Tuesday night (May 5th) at 08:57 PM local time (09:57 PM EDT; 06:57 PM PDT) and saw the Raptor engine ignite and fire for four full seconds.

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SpaceX Describes Exactly How They’re Planning to Make Starlink Satellites Less Visible From Earth

Starlink

In 2015, Elon Musk announced that his company, SpaceX, would be deploying satellites to orbit that would provide high-speed broadband internet access to the entire world. Known as Starlink, SpaceX began deploying this constellation in May of 2019 with the launch of the first 60 satellites. As of April 22nd, a total of 422 satellites have been added to the Starlink constellation, and the response hasn’t been entirely positive.

In addition to fears that we’re adding to the problem of “space junk,” there are also those who’ve expressed concern that Starlink and other constellations could have a negative impact on astronomy. In response, SpaceX recently announced that it will be instituting changes in how the satellites are launched, how they orbit the Earth, and even how reflective they are in order to minimize the impact they have on astronomy.

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Now This is Progress! Starship Passes its Cryogenic Test and Doesn’t Explode

This weekend, SpaceX’s fourth Starship prototype (SN4) achieved a major milestone by passing the crucial cryogenic load test. This consisted of the prototype’s liquid oxygen and liquid methane tanks being filled with liquid nitrogen to see how they hold up when fully-pressurized. This test was vital since the three previous prototypes suffered structural failures and were lost during this exact same procedure.

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Crew Dragon Will Be Launching on May 27th

NASA and SpaceX are targeting May 27, 2020 for an historic mission: the launch of the first astronauts on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, with the destination as the International Space Station (ISS). The crew, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, are scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:32 pm EDT that day from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. If all goes well, the Crew Dragon will autonomously dock with the space station about 24 hours later.

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SpaceX Will be Flying Cargo to the Moon

In the coming years, NASA plans to return astronauts to the Moon as part of Project Artemis. However, the long-term goal is to establish a sustainable program for lunar exploration, as well as a permanent human presence on the Moon. A key aspect of this plan is the Lunar Gateway, an orbiting habitat that will allow for long-duration missions to the lunar surface (and eventually to Mars.)

To realize this goal, NASA is moving ahead with the development of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft. The agency also recently announced that it has awarded its first contract to SpaceX as part of the Gateway Logistics Services (GLS) program. As per this agreement, SpaceX will be tasked with delivering cargo, experiments, and other supplies to the agency’s Lunar Gateway once it is deployed in orbit of the Moon.

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SpaceX’s Third Starship Prototype Collapsed Last Night

Top Image Credit: LabPadre w/ Maria Pointer

SpaceX just cannot catch a break! Last night, during the same cryogenic proof test that killed the previous two prototypes, SpaceX’s SN3 prototype experienced a structural failure. On-site video footage provided by famed NASASpaceFlight member BocaChicaGal shows the SN3 experiencing what appears to be a leak, followed by the fuselage collapsing.

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Want to Buy Flights on Starship? Here’s the New SpaceX Payload User’s Guide, no Prices, Unfortunately

The development of the Starship – SpaceX’s super-heavy launch system that will take cargo and crews to orbit, the Moon, and even Mars – has been fraught with setbacks and frustration. But Musk has no intention of stopping and is even planning ahead for the day when the Starship and Super Heavy are making regular flights.

In keeping with this, SpaceX recently released a Payload User’s Guide for consumers that lays out what kind of services the launch system will provide – once it’s up and running. While no price points have been established yet, the guide provides a good summary of the Starship’s technical specifications and capabilities.

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