It’s been nine months since we last saw a new Starship prototype leave the SpaceX factory in Boca Chica, Texas. The unfinished rocket, dubbed S24, will undergo qualification testing, but the Elon Musk-led company still needs regulatory approval to launch the full-stack system.
The launch of the prototype S24 is what SpaceX is expected to execute First Orbital Flight Test of Fully Stacked Starship Rocket Later this year, as company founder and CEO Elon Musk, CommitmentSpaceX will attempt 12 Starship launches in 2022 — another promise from Musk — which seems overly optimistic at the moment, but crazier things are already happening.
Starship is designed to transport cargo and passengers to Earth orbit, the moon and Mars. Musk described it as “a generalized transport mechanism for the larger solar system,” but more conservatively, The company must prove the vehicle is capable of landing astronauts on the moon, under a NASA contract. The space agency hopes to put astronauts on the lunar surface by 2025, which means SpaceX needs to crack; a fully stacked Starship rocket has yet to leave the ground.
The sudden appearance of the Starship prototype S24 is therefore a welcome sign for the company. The unfinished installation left the SpaceX factory in Boca Chica yesterday, transportation to a test area. A video posted to NASASpaceflight’s YouTube channel shows the new prototype being rolled out, offering several clear behemoth’s view. Prototypes need to pass some basic qualification tests, namely Pressure and cryogenic proof testing. If all goes well, S24 will be moved to suborbital pad A for further evaluation, as Teslarati explains:
Rather than jumping directly into a static fire, SpaceX first uses hydraulic plungers to simulate the thrust of six Raptor V2 engines while cooling the Starship’s steel tanks and pipes to cryogenic temperatures, minimizing the risk of catastrophic failure.SpaceX will only install the new Raptor engine and [perform] Several static fires.
Absent from the rocket are hundreds of tiles and an aerocoverbut according to Teslarati, the S24 does show some differences from previous versions, such as a more resilient thrust section, a new nose, upgraded landing propellant tanks, and a payload bay and hatch.
The previous prototype, the S20, debuted in August 2021 and retired in May 2022. The S20 never took off, but did undergo a Raptor static fire test and was temporarily stacked on a super heavy booster BN4, making it the largest rocket ever.
Depending on how things go, the S24 can either stay on the mat or be moved back to the factory for further work. This prototype is likely to be an advanced stage placed on top of the Booster 7, which is also being developed at the Boca Chica factory. Super Heavy Booster is coming for Raptor installation, according to to NASA spaceflight.
However, if SpaceX wants to conduct orbital tests, Federal Aviation Administration It needs to complete its environmental review and is expected to be delivered on May 31. The FAA had previously delayed the much-anticipated review four times, but the regulator is expected to make it official next week. The Boca Chica facility or Starbase as SpaceX employees know it Located on environmentally sensitive land.
The findings of the review could have major ramifications for the project; SpaceX’s worst-case scenario is a full environmental assessment of the Boca Chica base, which could take years. Alternatively, the FAA could return a list of easy-to-solve recommendations for SpaceX to follow. Or somewhere in between. Either way, we will be monitoring these developments closely.