Enlarge /. SpaceX has rapidly expanded its Starship manufacturing facilities in the past six months. Here is a view from the east side in late February.
A little less than two months have passed since SpaceX unexpectedly destroyed its latest Starship prototype in southern Texas. Shortly after a static fire test on this vehicle in late May, designated Serial Number 4 or SN4, a problem with the floor systems triggered a dramatic explosion that destroyed the large vehicle and seriously damaged its test bed.
Since this failure, SpaceX has rather accelerated work in southern Texas. The company completed the development of a second test rig for Starship and started building several new prototypes. In addition to the completion of SN5, which was reviewed earlier this month, the components of the sixth, seventh, and even eighth Starship vehicle are in various missile conditions at the SpaceX missile factory in southern Texas.
There were also indications that SpaceX could begin developing and testing the Super Heavy rocket in southern Texas relatively soon. This is the gigantic first stage rocket that will bring the spacecraft vehicle, which is the upper stage, into orbit close to Earth. Boca Chica's weekly video update from NASASpaceflight.com showed both the development of a high bay for stacking the Super Heavy rocket and the preliminary construction of a launch pad.
Now it's time to start the fire again, and engineers are preparing SN5 for additional testing. This campaign can culminate in a short flight late this week or early next week.
Let's go bounce
On Monday, the company carried out what appeared to be a refueling test with the vehicle, a new test bench and improved floor systems. At the moment, SpaceX is in a tank test on Wednesday to determine the viability of the prototype's liquid oxygen and methane fuel tanks.
If this test goes well, SpaceX will likely do a static fire test of SN5 on a single Raptor rocket engine later this week. It is not clear whether the company will only perform one or more static fire tests. However, if these tests are successful, the company can try to launch the full-size prototype on a 150-meter test flight. On Tuesday, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Twitter that the company would try to fly "later this week."
However, some of the failures of the Starship program were not pretty. But nobody was hurt, and with an iterative testing program, you have to take a reasonable risk to move forward quickly. And SpaceX has done this by reducing the time it took to build a single spaceship from months to weeks and bringing Musk's ultimate goal of mass-producing the large interplanetary spaceships that could one day enable humans to approach Mars settle.
But first there have to be small steps. So we will be watching with interest whether SN5 will take such a step with a small but significant leap in the coming days.