SpaceX has a good relationship with Falcon 9. It has almost perfect landings, allowing it to reuse boosters and NASA has certified Falcon 9 to transport its most important cargo and even astronauts. However, the company is already looking forward to its next launch platform. After detonating some starship prototypes, the latest SN5 test vehicle has just completed a full-duration static fire. CEO Elon Musk says it lays the foundation for a “hop” in the near future.
The spacecraft, formerly known as BFR, is SpaceX’s next multipurpose rocket. With the Super Heavy launch pad, Starship will be a heavy lift system capable of sending large payloads into the external solar system. Musk also floated the spaceship to colonize Mars in the coming years. Of course, Musk tends to promise too much: he thought the spaceship would fly by spring. Instead, SpaceX is just starting to plan the ship’s maiden flight.
Last year, we saw SpaceX launch the first rocket with a Raptor engine, the so-called “Starhopper”. It was essentially a section of the final spaceship capable of taking off with a single engine, hovering 150 meters in the air and then landing. The goal is to make the spacecraft completely reusable like Falcon 9. Musk said that a spacecraft launch could cost up to $ 2 million once in full production, which is significantly less than other missiles. ESA’s Ariane 5 costs $ 165 million per launch and Atlas V is $ 110 million.
The prototype SN5 is the latest version of the rocket, but it is not a final configuration: you can consider it as the intermediate point between the Starhopper and a real starship. Assuming that the tragedy does not happen this rocket, it could complete the proposed flight of 150 meters in the next week or two. Even if something goes wrong and SN5 is lost, SpaceX has two other prototypes in production: SN6 and SN8. The SN7 was a small-scale test tank that the company discarded after being spilled during testing in June 2020.
The spaceship SN5 has just completed full-duration static fire. 150m hop early.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 30, 2020
SpaceX also hopes that SN5 will be the first version of the spaceship to complete a test flight at high altitude for about 20 kilometers. Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy will continue to handle all SpaceX launch operations for the time being, but spaceship development is proceeding at a surprising rate.