Preparations for the first test flights of SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft this week are underway in South Texas and you can watch it all unfold from the comfort of your browser.
Upcoming Test Flights Only the First Step
SpaceX is getting ready for the very first test flights of their massive Starship spacecraft down in Southern Texas this week. The sleek, stainless steel vehicle has been the object of considerable fascination from rocket scientists to space nerds to aerospace professionals, so there is considerable excitement for these initial test flights.
The first test flights won’t be the kinds of spectacular liftoffs we’ve seen from SpaceX’s Dragon capsules for the past several months—its way, way too early for that—but every new spacecraft had to start the same way, making incremental steps higher and higher into the sky until reaching the frontier of space.
For now, SpaceX’s Starship will have to settle for being just a Starhopper. Tethered to the ground with only a single Raptor engine—which, fair to say, is still a damned impressive piece of engineering—to lift it off the ground, Starship’s first test flight will literally be a short hop, “barely” leaving the ground at all, according to Elon Musk.
Hopefully. Always many issues integrating engine & stage. First hops will lift off, but only barely.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 17, 2019
If there’s going to be a first step in the development of a new rocket-propelled spacecraft, seeing if the thing can get off the ground at all is probably a good place to start.
Steady Pace of Starship Development
Starship’s development has been coming along steadily. Several weeks ago, Elon Musk tweeted out a video of Starship’s heat shield, followed by another video last week of a large section of hexagonal-shaped components being savaged by flame throwers, making the whole thing look like an angry honeycomb.
In what’s becoming something of an international spectator event, SpaceX has been live streaming its launches, tests, and other milestones so that fans of the space program of simply just onlookers can come together to experience these moments together; the spectacular and mesmerizing autonomous docking of the Dragon Crew capsule with the International Space Station this month being only the most recent example.
For those who don’t want to wait, they can tune in now to a 24-hour Livecam of SpaceX’s Starship preparations from South Padre Island, Texas, six miles from the Boca Chica Launch Pad.