Another eventful day for Elon Musk’s SpaceX saw a successful test flight of the Starship SN5 prototype. The spaceflight ‘hopped’ to an altitude of around 150m above the rocket development facility in Texas. Notably, the company flew its full-size prototype for the first time, as this is the highest point that one of the prototypes has reached.
The 60-second flight clip gave us a spectacular view of the magnificent hop. During the ascent, the uncrewed flight touched the expected peak and descended back by deploying its landing legs. Starship SN5 is being developed to realize SpaceX and Musk’s dream of launching an interplanetary spaceflight. Musk tweeted:
Prior to Starship, SpaceX built and tested the Starhopper as part of its Mars colonizing Starship vehicle. Starhopper allowed the company to narrow in on futuristic prototypes and to test the new engine that will be used to power the beast – Raptor. The earlier models failed due to problems at different points in preparation, pressure tests, and even static fire tests.
As the prototypes evolved this year, SpaceX started working on models resembling silos of stainless grain to test spacecraft pressurization and stability when loaded with cryogenic rocket propellant.
So What’s In Store For The Future of SpaceX and Starship?
Right after the hop, Elon Musk took to Twitter and wrote: “Mars is looking real.” It is important to note that both Starhopper and SN5 feature a single Raptor – the next powerful engine from SpaceX. Musk has claimed that the final prototype of the Starship spacecraft will be able to accommodate 6 Raptors, and it will be sufficient to carry 100 men. The Starship will lift-off from Earth from a rocket called Super Heavy, which will feature 31 Raptors by itself. Musk estimates that the spacecraft will cut down the cost of crewed trips to Moon, Mars, and other space sites.
Musk has been optimistic about Mars ever since SpaceX came into being. He has even stated that if all goes well with Super Heavy and Starship, humanity’s dream of building the first sustainable city of Mars to support the local population will be a reality in the next 50-100 years.
On 2nd August 2020, NASA’s astronauts Douglas and Behnken returned to Earth in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Demo-2 capsule. The mission is believed to have the potential to revolutionize the future of space exploration programs, bringing humans one step closer to commercial space travel.
With the degree of performance of the various programs undertaken by SpaceX, the company has strengthened the core aspects of the architecture. In the next few years, the spacecraft is likely only to improve further.