Elon Musk has confirmed that SpaceX is preparing to begin test flights of Starship, a spacecraft that Musk and SpaceX hopes will carry human civilization to Mars one day, as early as next week.
Starship Test Flights To Begin Soon
During a Sunday tweetstorm, SpaceX founder Elon Musk went into some detail about upcoming plans to begin test flights for Starship, the company’s passenger vessel that they hope will carry humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars.
According to Musk, the upcoming test flight, Starship’s first, will be a “hop” that will lift the craft off the ground, “but only barely”. The test will take place in Boca Chica, Texas, one of two locations where Starship and the Super Heavy rocket will be built.
Hopefully. Always many issues integrating engine & stage. First hops will lift off, but only barely.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 17, 2019
Musk also indicated that he hopes to use both Boca Chica, Texas and Cape Kennedy, Florida as launch sites for suborbital test flights for Starship, if granted regulatory approval.
Working on regulatory approval for both Boca Chica, Texas, and Cape Kennedy, Florida. Will also be building Starship & Super Heavy simultaneously in both locations.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 17, 2019
Starship Test Flight Comes After Heat Shield Video Lit Up Twitter
Most of the attention this weekend was focused on the video that Musk posted on Twitter of Starship’s heat shield test—which he says it passed.
Testing Starship heatshield hex tiles pic.twitter.com/PycE9VthxQ— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 17, 2019
Progress on Starship has been gradually building, even as design changes are introduced. Originally, Musk and SpaceX had hoped to have the entire windward side of Starship cooled using a regenerative transpirational cooling system, but appears to be limiting this system to areas that truly need it.
Transpiration cooling will be added wherever we see erosion of the shield. Starship needs to be ready to fly again immediately after landing. Zero refurbishment.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 17, 2019
This makes sense, since transporting a stainless steel spacecraft is heavy enough without all the extra liquid needed for the transpirational heat shield.