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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SpaceX Almost Ready to Start Testing its Third Starship Prototype. Let’s Hope it Doesn’t Explode

For almost a year now, SpaceX has been building a series of Starship prototypes that will test how the system fares when launched to orbit. Coming on the heels of successful hop tests with the Starship Hopper, these tests will validate the spacecraft and its Raptor engines in space. Unfortunately, the company has encountered some hiccups with these prototypes, where the first two exploded during pressure testing.

The first prototype, Starship Mk.1, exploded on the launchpad on November 20th, 2019, during a cryogenic loading test that sent its nose cone flying. The second prototype, SN1, also exploded during a pressure test on the evening of Feb. 28th, 2020, causing the fuselage to jump several meters in the air before hitting the ground and exploding again. Undeterred, Musk recently shared images of the components for the SN3 prototype undergoing assembly.

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Elon Musk says that SpaceX Has no Plans to Spin Off Starlink

Last week, the Satellite 2020 Conference & Exhibition wrapped up after four days of presentations and addresses from some of the leading experts in the telecommunications industry. As advertised, SpaceX founder Elon Musk was on hand to deliver a keynote speech in which he announced that (contrary to earlier statements) Starlink will not be spun off and become its own business enterprise.

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Another Reminder that Spaceflight is Difficult. Starship Prototype Explodes and Falls Over

SpaceX’s Starship has been hitting some bumps making its way from the drawing board to space. As the spacecraft element of the Elon Musk’s proposed super-heavy launch system, the Starship will one day become the workhorse of SpaceX, replacing the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launchers. Unfortunately, another Starship prototype recently experienced a structural failure during pressure testing that caused it to explode.

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SpaceX is Thinking of Spinning Off Starlink and Taking it Public

In May of 2019, SpaceX launched the first batch of satellites that will make up its Starlink constellation, thus delivering on Musk’s promise to provide broadband internet access to the whole world. Since then, the company has conducted several launches of upgraded satellites with the intent of creating a constellation of 1,584 by 2024 and 2,200 by 2027.

According to the latest statements made by Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s President and Chief Operations Officer (COO), the company is considering spinning off Starlink and making it a publicly-traded company in the coming years. The announcement was made on Thursday, Feb. 6th, at a private investor event hosted by JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Miami.

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SpaceX Has Requested Permission to Fly Starship as Early as March

In September of 2019, SpaceX unveiled the first Starship prototype, the first of several test vehicles that would validate the design of the next-generation spacecraft that would fulfill Musk’s promise of making commercial flights to the Moon and Mars. And while there was a bit of a setback in November of 2019 after the Mk. 1 suffered a structural failure, Musk indicated that the company would be moving forward with other prototypes.

As Musk explained at the time, this would consist of the Mk. 3 prototype conducting an orbital test flight to an altitude of 100 km (62 mi) sometime in 2020. According to recent filings made with the FCC, this test could be happening as early as mid-March and will involve the vehicle launching from the company’s test facility in Boca Chica, Texas, and flying to an altitude of 20 km (12.6 mi) before landing.

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule Nails In-Flight Abort Test! Next Stop, the ISS!

At Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, during the morning hours this past Sunday (Jan, 19th), SpaceX conducted the final uncrewed test of their Crew Dragon space capsule. This was the all-important in-flight abort test, the purpose of which was to validate the crew capsuleā€™s escape capabilities in the event of an unexpected emergency during launch.

The event, which was live-streamed by NASA TV, was a complete success and saw the Crew Dragon successfully separate from its Falcon 9 launcher before being retrieved at sea. With this test complete, NASA and SpaceX will be moving forward with the first crewed mission. Known as Crew Demo-2, this mission will see two astronauts launched aboard the Crew Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.

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Starship Mk 1 Blows its Top During Testing

SpaceX has been on a roll lately. With the completion of tethered and untethered flight tests with the Starship Hopper, SpaceX founder Elon Musk unveiled the newly-completed Starship Mk 1 prototype and announced that orbital test flights would commence in a few months. Meanwhile, the Starlink constellation got started with the launch of its first 60 satellites, followed by 60 more upgraded versions.

Unfortunately, there are always some speed bumps along the way. Yesterday, during a cryogenic loading test, the Starship Mk 1 experienced an explosion that sent its top bulkhead flying off and dispersing frozen vapor all over the launch area. However, SpaceX has indicated in an official statement that this setback was not unforeseen and won’t hamper the orbital flight test of the prototype for long.

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SpaceX is Sure They’ll be Able to Land Starship on the Moon in 2022

Things are looking pretty good for Elon Musk and SpaceX, the company he founded back in 2002 with the intent of reinvigorating space exploration. In the last six months alone, SpaceX has deployed the first batch of its Starlink broadband internet satellites to space, conducted two successful untethered tests with the Starship Hopper, and finished work on the first orbital-class Starship test vehicle (the Mk.1).

And at the 70th International Astronautical Congress, which took place last week in Washington, DC, SpaceX president and Chief Operations Officer Gwynne Shotwell provided additional details about the Starship‘s mission timeline. As she indicated during a series of interviews, the company hopes to be sending the Starship to orbit next year, landing on the Moon by 2022, and sending payloads to the lunar surface by 2024.

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