Sixth full-scale test prototype of SpaceX Starship has successfully completed a key static fire test of its Raptor engines, according to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk . The so-called prototype Starship ‘SN5’ is now ready to pass a short test flight of 150 meters (almost 500 meters), which would mark farther than one of these test spacecraft has done it through the program of planned development of SpaceX.
SpaceX has been building and testing Starship prototypes (which were designed by ‘SN’ followed by their sequence number) since last year, after the company first built a sub-scale demonstrator that consisted of essentially just the basis of a single-engine Starship Raptor mounted to demonstrate low-altitude flights and landing capabilities.
Since then, SpaceX has been building full-scale demonstration prototypes to perform more test flights, initially seeking to go straight to high-altitude testing. These were known as Mk1and Mk2, and Mk1 was destroyed during pressure tank testing, while Mk2 shifted with the company shifting its focus to Mk3 (renamed SN1, starting the new naming convention for the series). The prototypes that have since been developed have been rapidly built and tested, with SN3 and SN4 both suffering catastrophic failures during the testing process.
SpaceX has successfully tested the SN5 prototype, however, as of today, and will now switch to the hop hop ‘first flight at low altitude of the full-scale prototype test vehicle.
Ultimately, SpaceX hopes to replace all launch vehicles with Starship – including Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy – as well as using it with its upcoming Super Heavy amplifier to transport large loads to Mars to establish a permanent human presence on the red planet. Obviously there is still a lot of evidence, and a lot of repetition to achieve before it reaches that lofty goal, but Musk and SpaceX seem to be keen on a fast pace of repetition and testing with a relatively public audience. Abundant testing is fairly standard for space vehicle development, but doing it outdoors is new, as is the speed with which SpaceX is building real test items and then using the results to create new versions. (and hopefully have improved).