On a foggy day on the beaches of Texas, SpaceX rolls out its much-awaited new and third Starship test article, SN3. With only its propellant tanks and engine bay stacked, SN3 was hoisted onto its launch mount in preparation for pressure tests and a potential short flight.
Starship (formally known as BFR) is SpaceX’s in-development rocket that is supposedly Mars capable. Producing more than two times the thrust of the Saturn V, the most powerful rocket ever built, Starship will be the most powerful rocket ever built and be able to send 100 people or 100 metric tons to Earth orbit or the surface of Mars. However, this is all thanks to its fully-reusable design. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has emphasized the importance of reusable rockets many times and compares them with aviation technology. He stated during the 67th International Astronautical Congress that “with air travel when you fly a plane, you fly that plane many times. Any mode of transport, whether it’s a plane, a horse, a bicycle, is reusable. You use that mode of transport many times. And if you had to get a new plane every time you flew somewhere, and even have two planes for a return journey, very few people could afford to fly.”
However, before a 6-month journey to Mars, SpaceX needs to verify that Starship can complete its required pressure tests. The predecessors to SN3, mark 1, and SN1, both failed its pressure tests and resulted in an explosion and a rapid unscheduled disassembly. However, SN2, a stripped-down version of Starship, did complete the required criteria, which was later confirmed by Musk on twitter. Stating, “SN2 (with thrust puck) passed cryo pressure & engine thrust load tests late last night.”
With the success of SN2, a favorable outcome for Starship SN3 does seem promising. If the tests are indeed successful with SN3, this would verify the strength of the welds of its tank section and further confirm that SN3 would be able to take the thrust loads of the powerful raptor engines.
SpaceX enthusiasts can expect to see tests occur in just a matter of a few days. Cameron Country, Texas, has already placed multiple road closures on Highway 4 and Boca Chica Beach in preparation for the upcoming tests. Road closures are placed for April 1st and April 6th with their backup dates, respectively. April 1st is scheduled for a static fire and April 6th for a 150-meter hop. Both tests will be firsts for Starship.
Musk aims to eventually produce one Starship per week and is certainly keeping his promise. The SpaceX Boca Chica site has seen unprecedented rapid progress in the development of their Starship construction site. The company managed to assemble Starship SN3 in less than a month after SN1 suffered an unfortunate anomaly. The stainless steel rings and bulkheads for the next iteration of the Starship prototype, SN4, has already been spotted by local SpaceX enthusiasts and is most likely already being assembled. The future for SpaceX seems very promising and thrilling.
Watch SN3 being rolled out to its launchpad in the video below.