Elon Musk is one step closer to Mars after SpaceX successfully launched its SN20 Starship prototype.
The rocket, which measures 165 feet tall, roared to life in preparation for its anticipated debut test flight in the next months.
Starship is a fully reusable rocket and spacecraft combination capable of ferrying up to 100 people to the Red Planet.
NASA chose it to be the base of a lunar lander, which will carry the next man down to the Moon’s surface with the first woman as part the Artemis programme.
Starship Serial Number 20 is being prepared for an orbital flight. This brief’static-fire’ test was a significant milestone in its development.
Elon Musk is now closer than ever to Mars, after his SpaceX company successfully fired its SN20 Starship prototype.
SpaceX’s Starship was stacked onto the Super Heavy booster by SpaceX in August.
The test took place on Thursday at 20:16 EDT at SpaceX’s Starbase facility near Boca Chica Texas. It initially involved the firing one of SN20’s two Raptor engines
The rocket was ready for its highly-anticipated first test flight in a few months
SUPER HEAVY LAUNCHER & STARSHIP
SpaceX Starship is composed of two stages, the Super Heavy booster on top and the Starship vessel on top.
Super Heavy ignites Starship and gives it the boost it needs in order to reach orbit.
Once in space, Starship separates and continues its journey. Super Heavy returns to the ground.
According to Elon Musk, the vehicle is designed to be a reusable launcher that could take humans to Mars.
The first stage or booster of the next-generation launch systems with a gross liftoff weight of more than three million kilograms.
It uses subcooled liquid methane or liquid oxygen (CH4/LOX), propellants.
The booster will land on its six legs at the launch site and return to earth.
Height: 70m (230ft).
Diameter: 9m (30ft).
Starship is the fully reusable spacecraft, second stage of Starship.
It features an integrated payload segment and can transport passengers and cargo between Earth and planetary destinations.
Height: 50m (160ft).
Diameter 9m (30ft).
It took place at 20.16 EDT Thursday (01.16 BST Friday). It was held at SpaceX’s Starbase facility near Boca Chica in south Texas.
SpaceX posted a video on Twitter of the test, writing: “First firing of a Raptor Vacuum Engine integrated onto a Starship.”
The ‘vacuum Raptor’ is designed to operate in space. SN20 also offers a standard sea-level’ version.
A second’static fire test’ was performed at 21:18 EDT Friday (02:18 BST Friday). It looked brighter than the previous one. Although SpaceX has not confirmed, it is believed to have involved both Raptors.
On Monday, Musk’s company also carried out a test of the vehicle’s pre-burners, which heat and mix the Raptor engines’ liquid methane and liquid oxygen propellants.
Starship is made up of two parts: a spacecraft, also known as Starship, and a massive booster at the top that it sits on, known as Super Heavy.
The combined system will be 394ft tall (120m) and is the tallest rocket ever built. When factoring in the 75ft orbital launch stand, it makes the whole thing larger than the Great Pyramid in Giza.
Both vehicles will be powered by Raptor engines — six for the final Starship and 29 for Super Heavy.
SN20 will carry three standard Raptors and three Vacuum versions when it launches into orbit, which is expected to happen later in the year.
It will launch the prototype and a Super Heavy known by Booster 4 from Starbase. The rocket will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico about 20 miles (32km) from the launchpad.
After reaching orbit, SN20 is expected to return to Earth from the Hawaiian island Kauai.
However, Starship’s orbital launch station is being assessed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This is a major problem.
Officials have released a draft version their assessment, but it is still being refined. They will also be accepting public comments until November 1, before publishing their final report.
Starship needs the booster stage in order to reach orbit. The two together reach a staggering 394ft high, which is larger than the Statue of Liberty with its entire plinth.
How does it compare to other rockets: The fully-reusable Starship will be capable of carrying a payload exceeding 220,000lb into low earth orbit, making this the largest rocket ever built.
Ambitious: Musk (the CEO and co-founder) of SpaceX has calculated that in order to reach his goal to put one million people on Mars by mid-2020s, his Starship Rockets would have to conduct approximately three flights per day and a total 1,000 flights each year.
This could lead to Starship’s first orbital test flights being delayed.
SpaceX has yet not announced a launch date but a filing with Federal Communications Commission states that it plans to launch the satellite in six months starting June 20.
The filing also revealed the sequence of the orbital launch. Starship will take its own route after the Super Heavy booster takes off and fires for 169 seconds.
Musk, who is also the CEO and cofounder of SpaceX, calculated that in order to achieve his ambitious goal of landing one million people on Mars by the mid 2020s, his Starship rockets would have to conduct approximately three flights per day and a total 1,000 flights each year.
SpaceX has conducted several tests on its Starship upper-stage measuring 160 feet. The most recent, SN15, landed on the launchpad after a short high altitude flight.
SpaceX’s primary goal is to ensure that Starship rockets can be reused. Future tests will see both stages return from the launch pad to test the waters.
STARSHIP: ELON MUSK’S ‘BIG F***ING ROCKET’
The BFR (Big F***ing Rocket), now known as Starship, will complete all missions and is smaller than the ones Musk announced in 2016.
SpaceX CEO John SpaceX stated that the rocket would travel to the red planet first in 2024 with only cargo. Then, a manned mission will follow in 2026. SpaceX claimed that other SpaceX products would be cannibalised’ to finance the mission.
The rocket could be partially reused and fly directly from Earth to Mars.
Once built, Musk believes the rocket could be used for travel on Earth — saying that passengers would be able to get anywhere in under an hour.
To date, the Starship series of rockets have seen 9 test flights — some resulting in successful short-distance hops, while others led to explosions or crash landings.
The most recent experimental launch — involving the Starship SN15 prototype — took place on May 5, 2021 and saw the craft complete a 33,000 feet high-altitude flight test into low-lying clouds, complete with successful ascent, engine cut-offs, flip manoeuvre, flap control and soft touchdown.
After the rocket’s landing, a small fire did ignite at the rocket’s base. However, it was extinguished later.