SpaceX’s first prototype high-altitude vehicle has passed the “freeze proof” test

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says the first prototype of the high-altitude spacecraft – known as SN8 – has just passed a freeze-proof test in South Texas, which could prepare the ship for a 15-kilometer (9.5 miles) flight test in the near future. .

Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Bob Haynes recently flew over SpaceX’s Boca Chica plant in Texas Starship with several of his fellow countrymen, providing a stellar aerial view of the company’s noisy facilities in the midst of the Starship SN8’s critical cold-test campaign.

Hines has managed to catch the moon alongside one of the T-38 training aircraft that NASA astronauts routinely use for training and travel, as a reminder that SpaceX has won $ 135 million to build the Lunar Starship that might one day return humans to Earth’s only companion. Possibly with or without NASA’s involvement, the Starship SpaceX prototype production and test program will directly determine whether and when the company visits the Moon and Mars.

A stunning aerial view of SpaceX’s Boca Chica plant and the Texas Starship factory, captured by a NASA astronaut who might one day ride a Starship spacecraft to the moon. (Bob Haynes – NASA)

Over the past three days, SpaceX has gradually put the SN8 spacecraft – the first prototype intended for high-altitude flight testing – through its paces, beginning with a “freeze proof” test that appears to have been aborted on 5/6 October. During the first attempt, SpaceX appeared to pressure the missile tank section with cold nitrogen gas and possibly a small amount of liquid nitrogen before the highway reopened. Starship SN8 also rolled out large backboards under its power for the first time on October 4, and SpaceX has run numerous run tests in the days that followed.

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After 24 hours, SpaceX tried again, this time successfully loading the liquid oxygen and methane fuel tanks into the SN8 spacecraft with 1,000 metric tons (2.2 million pounds) of liquid nitrogen – used to simulate the extremely cold temperatures of cryogenic fuels without the risk of an accident. Fire or catastrophic explosion. After the cooling load, SpaceX was said to have tried to squeeze the missile tanks to their limits but the test was halted somewhat when the SN8 spacecraft showed a “small leak … near the engine mounts” after reaching pressures of 7 bar (~ 100 psi ).

Just as Musk expected, SpaceX apparently managed to fix the minor leak in under 24 hours and began its third round of freeze-proof testing for the Starship SN8 late October 7. Once again, the rocket was fully loaded with liquid nitrogen and spent about 2-3 hours under cryogenic pressure as SpaceX would likely squeeze the propulsion chassis (“thrust disc”) by simulating the propulsion of the Raptor engines with hydraulic presses. Nothing out of the ordinary happened and Mask had yet to comment on the test, indicating that things went pretty much as planned.

Interestingly, SpaceX then prepared for a fourth night of cryogenic tests on October 8/9. It’s not entirely surprising that the company wanted to test the first spacecraft made primarily from a new steel alloy as accurately as possible. If the fourth night of SN8 testing yields satisfactory results and SpaceX is less concerned with the leak discovered during the second round of testing, the company may be ready to install three engines and try its first multi-Raptor static fire test Start.

Update: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says Starship SN8 A test that “passed the cold test”, likely preparing the missile for the first-ever static-fire Triple Raptor test. If the SN8 passes a static fire test, it will likely be outfitted with a nosecone hood, front racks and another three-engine steady firing attempt using smaller pusher tanks, ultimately preparing it to support the first high-altitude flight test of the prototype spacecraft if It all went according to plan.

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