Enlarge /. Top view of the static fire test SN5 on Thursday.
After several attempts by WeatherX due to weather problems, technical problems and even a range violation due to a nearby boat, SpaceX managed to test the latest prototype of its Starship vehicle with static fire on Thursday.
At 3:02 p.m. local time in southern Texas, the single Raptor motor of the Starship prototype, named Serial Number 5 or SN5, came to life for a few seconds. In a video released by NASASpaceflight.com, the test appeared to be nominal, which obviously gave the SpaceX engineers the confidence they needed for the latest version of Starship.
The spaceship SN5 has just completed the static fire in full duration. 150m hop soon.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk), July 30, 2020
Shortly after the test, the founder and chief engineer of SpaceX, Elon Musk, confirmed that the company is now planning a short test flight of the vehicle due to the static fire. Based on a announcement from the US Federal Aviation Administration, this 150-meter flight test could take place on Sunday. The start window opens at 8 a.m. local time (13:00 UTC).
This would be the first flight test with Starship hardware since a blunt prototype – Starhopper – rose to 150 meters in late August 2019. This test, in which a single Raptor engine propelled the vehicle up and to the side about 100 meters before landing, was successful in demonstrating the thrust and vector control of the methane-powered engine.
Since then, SpaceX has built several true-to-scale prototypes that have been lost through various fuel and pressure tests. With an iterative testing program, like the one used by SpaceX to develop Starship, the company decided to take an appropriate risk in order to move quickly.
And SpaceX did just that. In the past eight months, the company has built an impressive factory in southern Texas and started producing Starship prototypes. Engineers and technicians have reduced the time it took to build a single spaceship from months to weeks, bringing the company closer to Musk's ultimate goal of mass-producing the large interplanetary spaceships that could one day enable humans to colonize Mars .
Even though SpaceX has put SN5 through its paces, there is hardware on-site for some future prototypes, including models that will use a new, harder steel alloy. Ultimately, SpaceX plans to bring one of these latter prototypes to about 20 km, maybe later this year.
After that point, the company is expected to focus on completing the first stage of the launch system, a "Super Heavy" rocket that will launch Starship into orbit.