The next big leap for SpaceX’s Mars colonization Spaceship spaceship seems to be just around the corner.
Two full-size Starship prototypes, the SN5 and SN6, were recently unveiled 150 meter high test hops at SpaceX’s facilities in South Texas, near the village of Boca Chica. And the next vehicle in line is almost ready to climb much higher, said company founder and CEO Elon Musk.
“The SN8 spacecraft with flaps and nose cone should be ready in about a week. Then static fire, box office, static fire will fly to 60,000 feet [18,300 m] & back,” Musk said on Twitter on Saturday (September 1
On photos: SpaceX’s SN5 Starship prototype soars on its first test flight
Static fires are routine engine tests that are performed while a vehicle is attached to the ground. The engines being tested in this case are SpaceX’s next-generation raptors – probably three of them to get the SN8 this high. The SN5 and SN6 only had a single Raptor, and these vehicles also had no nose cones or control-enhancing body flaps. (SN7 was a test tank that SpaceX purposely burst during a print attempt last June in case you are wondering.)
SpaceX is working on a final version of Starship, which will contain six Raptors and, according to Musk, can carry up to 100 people to the moon, Mars and other distant destinations.
The 50 m high spaceship takes off from Earth on a gigantic rocket called the Super Heavy, which is powered by around 30 of its own raptors. The spaceship vehicle will be powerful enough to detonate from the moon and Mars, which have a much weaker pull than our planet, Musk said.
Both Starship and Super Heavy are designed to be fully and quickly reusable. This is a technological breakthrough that SpaceX believes will make ambitious exploration efforts like colonizing Mars economically feasible.
Connected: SpaceX’s spaceship and super heavy rocket in pictures
SpaceX has already booked a Starship customer – Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who will fly around the moon in the vehicle. The planned start date for this mission is 2023.
Spaceship is too in the race NASA astronauts landing on the moon as part of the space agency Artemis program. Artemis plans to lay down two astronauts near the lunar south pole in 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence on and around the moon by the end of the decade.
Starship will fly a variety of missions to many different destinations if everything goes according to plan. SpaceX plans to phase out all of its other space hardware over time, eventually turning all responsibilities over to Starship and Super Heavy.
Mike Wall is the author of Out There (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for other people’s lives. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.