Tag Archives: SN5

SN5 Completes 150m Hop Test

Starship Prototype successfully completes 150m hop test.

On August 4, the road to Mars took a giant step forward! SpaceX’s full-scale Starship SN5 prototype has successfully launched 150 m (approx. 492 feet) into the air.

The spacecraft was launched from SpaceX’s launch facilities in Boca Chica, Texas.

The SN5 prototype was powered by the reusable, methane and oxygen-fueled Raptor engine.

That same engine underwent a successful static fire test on July 30.

What is the Starship?

Starship is the next-generation, deep-space rocket that SpaceX intends to build in order to conduct deep-space exploration missions. The rocket will also serve as the catalyst behind a multiplanetary human species.

It has already been selected by NASA as one of the three lunar landing systems to be part of the $35 billion Artemis program.

The program’s main goal is to land “the first woman and the next man” on the Moon by 2024. 

The program’s long-term goal, however, is far bigger in both scale and scope. It aims to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon that enables private companies to build a lunar economy.

This sustainable presence will enable human exploration, and possible human settlement, on Mars.

A long, hard road

SpaceX spent the better part of eleven months regularly testing Starship prototypes.

Shortly after establishing Boca Chica’s launch facility, SpaceX built a prototype of the Starship design, dubbed the Starship Hopper. 

The company initially conducted a series of tethered flight tests using the Raptor engine. A tethered flight test is a type of flight testing where a machine is connected by a tether to the ground.

These tests were followed by an untethered hop test on August 28 2019.

The Starship Hopper successfully launched 150m into the air using a single Raptor engine. That test proved that the latter can be integrated into a test vehicle, and enabled SpaceX to start conducting tests with full-scale prototypes.

This is where the problems began for the company. The first three prototypes, the Mk1, SN1  and SN3, experienced blowouts during their cryogenic proof tests and were lost.

A cryogenic proof test is when a spacecraft is filled with cold liquid nitrogen to verify that its tanks can withstand flight pressures. Liquid Nitrogen has a boiling point of -195.8 °C.

The fourth prototype, the SN4, managed to pass the cryogenic proof test, only to explode during its static fire test.

Thankfully, the SN5 managed to escape the fate of its predecessors.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the successful SN5 hop test may constitute a turning point for SpaceX. It puts the company on track towards full-scale orbital testing of their future launch vehicle. The Road to Mars is now well and truly underway!

Starship’s Static Fire test successful!

The SN5 prototype is now set for its “hop” test

On July 30, SpaceX conducted a successful static fire test for its Starship super-heavy launch vehicle in Boca Chica, Texas. The fifth Starship prototype (SN5) was able to ignite its single Raptor engine. 

What is a static fire test? 

In essence, a static fire test is the process of firing the engines of a rocket at full thrust. The engine(s) is fired for a few seconds while the launch vehicle remains attached to the launch mount. The latter can either have a payload attached to it or not.  

The duration of static fire tests is less than 10 seconds, so total wear on the rocket is very limited.  

What is the purpose of a static fire test?

A static fire test is a critical process before a launch vehicle prototype can be classified as a fully-operational one.

A static fire test can test the following:

  • The rocket’s first stage engines. In the case of the Starship SN5 prototype, it is the aforementioned Raptor engine.  
  • The entire countdown process: It involves fueling the rocket’s first and second stage. The ability of the payload to run off on internal power. Last but not least, the ability to communicate with ground control before liftoff.

In a way, a static fire test acts can be labeled as a quality control and risk assessment test.  It is a process by which entities (SpaceX engineers) review the quality of all factors involved in the product (the Starship).  

A long hard road that finally came to fruition

This latest test came about after a long and arduous process for SpaceX. It came after approximately three weeks of delays and aborted attempts.  

The first static attempt was initially scheduled on July 10, before being postponed. Three static fire attempts were aborted after that date on July 25 and July 27. Twice during the last date.

The second failed attempt was due to Hurricane Hanna. This was the first hurricane to make landfall in Texas since 2008, and proceeded to damage a connector on the Starship. The third attempt was aborted due to a crucial fuel valve that failed to open, according to Elon Musk. The SpaceX founder also stated that there was “some odd TVC hydraulic pump behavior”. 

In any case, all the bugs were fixed and the static fire’s fourth attempt was successful.  

In conclusion, the success of the static fire test will now pave the way for the first flight test of a full-scale Starship in the near future.

One more step towards the Moon, one more step towards Mars!