SpaceX has cleaned up the altitude test of its newest Starship prototype, the SN15, which was scheduled for the afternoon of April 30th. No reason was given for the cancellation, and that likely means the test will be reset next week.
The altitude test is one of the biggest challenges for a prototype. The prototype is refueled and started in it and soars to great heights. The prototype then performs its “belly-flop” maneuver to turn around and attempt to return to Earth for a controlled vertical landing. This wasn’t easy, however, as four previous attempts to get a prototype to perform the landing maneuver resulted in the prototypes exploding.
In preparation for this latest test, SpaceX conducted tests such as a static fire test that was conducted on Monday April 26th. During this test, the prototype was subjected to take-off preparations and remained tied to the ground when its engines were fired. This allows engineers to verify that everything is working as planned. Everything seemed to be going well, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the prototype would be ready for high altitude testing later that week.
The static fire of the SN15 spacecraft has been completed and is preparing for flight later this week
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 27, 2021
NASASpaceFlight says the test will most likely be postponed to Monday, April 3rd, given the road closure around the Boca Chica launch site. There are only a few windows available for testing on the weekend, so next week is most likely time for testing.
SpaceX has announced that it will send the spaceship on its first orbital flight this summer, but must first perform an altitude test with the tricky vertical landing maneuver.
The final plan is for the spaceship to become a heavy launch vehicle to send larger payloads on longer journeys such as the moon and Mars. This would complement the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, which is used to launch satellites, crew pods, and more, and has a reusable first stage. Although reusable missiles are significantly more difficult to design and manage than single-use missiles, they can make spaceflight cheaper and more accessible because the cost is lower when parts can be reused.