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SpaceX’s future deep-space rocket passes key test, paving the way for short flight

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This weekend, SpaceX efficiently handed an enormous milestone within the improvement of its next-generation deep-space rocket referred to as Starship, which is designed to someday ship cargo and folks to the Moon and Mars. In a single day on Sunday, a prototype of the rocket underwent an excellent chilly strain take a look at in Texas and remained intact on the take a look at stand, paving the best way for this specific automobile to fly to a low altitude within the upcoming weeks.

Passing this take a look at is a significant step for SpaceX since this similar take a look at has destroyed different Starship prototypes prior to now. Often called a cryogenic proof take a look at, it entails filling the automobile with extremely chilly liquid nitrogen to see if the automobile can deal with the identical forms of temperatures and strain it’ll should take care of when it’s full of tremendous chilly propellants for launches. SpaceX misplaced three earlier automobiles throughout these chilly strain exams; the prototypes both burst aside or imploded whereas on the take a look at stand at SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that this test was a bit of a “softball” pressure test, however it was sufficient to proceed with flight exams.

Engineers will set up SpaceX’s newly developed Raptor engine onto the bottom of the prototype this week. The corporate will then ignite the Raptor whereas restraining the automobile to see if the engine is working correctly. SpaceX developed the Raptor engine particularly for Starship, and the ultimate design of the rocket requires six of those engines to energy the automobile. However SpaceX will solely use one Raptor on this prototype, with plans to extend that quantity on future automobiles. The following prototype will get three Raptor engines, in accordance with Musk.

As soon as the Raptor is examined correctly on this prototype, it’ll be time for this automobile to catch some air. SpaceX intends to fly the prototype as much as an altitude of 492 toes, or 150 meters, after which land it again down on the bottom in a single piece. It’d be a brief “hop” take a look at, meant to check the automobile’s means to take off after which use its engine to the touch down gently afterward. This kind of propulsive touchdown is how SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 rockets after launch, and it’s the identical approach that the Starship is meant to make use of when it lands again on Earth after launch or when it lands on different worlds — such because the Moon or Mars.

SpaceX performed the same hop take a look at again in August with a really early prototype of Starship referred to as Starhopper. That automobile didn’t resemble the ultimate design of Starship, trying extra like a water tower with touchdown legs. However this new prototype must be extra comparable in dimension and form to Starship when it flies, although it’ll nonetheless be lacking some {hardware} that the ultimate design can have. Musk claims the whole lot must be “bodily prepared” for the hop take a look at in just a few weeks, however regulatory approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration “might take longer.”

In the meantime, SpaceX remains to be updating the design of Starship and implementing modifications on future automobiles. Manufacturing of the following Starship prototype is already underway as the corporate continues to develop this rocket at a fast tempo in Boca Chica.

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