SpaceX Starship (/Super Heavy) testing: 150 m hop successful, more info September 28

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Previously discussed in the "Space Stuff" thread but this is a long-term project.

What is Starship?
SpaceX is working on a fully reusable two-stage rocket to replace the partially reusable Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy. It is the largest rocket that made it beyond the concept phase so far; the payload will be 100-150 tonnes to low Earth orbit. Both stages are expected to be fully and rapidly reusable, a bit like aircraft, as this can reduce launch cost massively. The lower stage is called Super Heavy, the upper stage is called Starship, the combination doesn't have an official name. Starship is the revolutionary part of it. It will come in several versions - a satellite deployment version, a tanker version (to refuel other Starships in orbit) and at least one passenger version. The ability to refuel in orbit gives it an unprecedented capability for flights leaving Earth. The same 100-150 tonnes can be launched to low Earth orbit can also be launched to the Moon or Mars.
The early business plan is the satellite deployment - cheaper than Falcon 9 and with a larger payload than Falcon Heavy it can take over all its flights. As long-term goal it is planned to fly humans to Mars, and maybe even beyond. It could also enable super-fast Earth to Earth transportation - flights would be under an hour where airplanes need up to ~20.

Current status
In early 2019 SpaceX built a subscale prototype called Starhopper. It has the same diameter but not the same height. It made first hops in April - held down with tethers, its maximum height was about 1 m.
In parallel SpaceX is constructing two full-scale Starship prototypes with by two teams who compete/cooperate.
Construction of Super Heavy is expected to start in about 3 months (August). By that time the Starship vehicles should have their outer structure finished.

Test plan
SpaceX is currently preparing for untethered hops of Starhopper. The first of them is expected to be about 20 m, roughly its own height, and could happen next week. It will be done with just one Raptor engine installed. Later hops will use three engines and be up to 5 km high, this is the limit of the permission SpaceX got for hops there. This is a bit similar to the Grasshopper tests that lead to the reusable boosters of Falcon 9.
The full-scale prototypes are expected to make high-altitude/high-velocity flights later this year. Super Heavy will follow later and combined orbital flights were announced for 2020.

------

If this works remotely as expected it will revolutionize spaceflight, crewed and uncrewed. Just plugging in numbers from SpaceX you might be able to buy a short trip to space for $5000. They can get a very long queue of customers. The big unknown is the safety: Can the system go from the ~2-5% failure rate of current rockets to a value close to the ~0.0002% of modern aircraft?
 

gleem

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Apparently the test has been put off again until June 17 through June 19. One source of this information is the Cameron County TX notice of road closure around the SpaceX test facitlity.
 
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Apparently they had some engine damage. Both a presentation planned for June 20 and the first flight might shift to July.


Edit: NET July confirmed

 
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While flight tests of the hopper get delayed due to engine issues (see the edit in the previous post) work on the orbital prototypes makes progress.

This is the status on the East Coast (from here):

D9r8iV_X4AAMglH.jpg


View from a different angle

This looks close to the renderings already.
The full Starship height is about 4 times the height of the nose section (plus feet). The larger piece might be twice the height of the nose, the section next to it is a bit below that, so we are at ~2.5 out of 4 or so, a bit more than half of the outer structure is done.
The hexagonal object to the left of the cylindrical section could be the start of the engine section.


Edit: Boca Chica (Texas) site seems to be near completion of the hull. Here is an overview, the three green rings are still missing.
 
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gleem

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No road closures notices around South Padre Island or FAA Notices to Airmen posted(NOTSAM)for the near future. Starhopper test awaiting raptor engine test first per https://www.spadre.com/
 
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The test schedule changed a bit - only a static fire (using the engine while standing on the ground) on Tuesday, hop on Wednesday. Based on the video of the static fire the hop might be delayed - significantly.

The video starts playing seconds before the static fire test that seemed to work normally. But watch what happens 51:15...



No official news yet.

Edit: Spacecraft looks fine, no visible damage at least. Probably rapid combustion of fuel that was vented after the test.

Edit2: No flight tests this week, new schedule to be determined.
 
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The fire from the static event was a fuel leak that didn't affect the main test; it has been fixed.

One hop attempt got aborted today (but there is a bit of fire around), maybe another attempt tomorrow. Video of the short Raptor burn

Unlike orbital launches these hop tests can be done on short notice, and unlikely launches of Falcon 9 which have become routine this is a completely new machine, so there are many unknowns involved.
 
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gleem

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Next test is tentatively scheduled for 11 pm EST July 25.
 
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It happened!
Success.

Elon Musk: "200 m hop in a week or so"





Edit: Video from below the hopper, looking at the engine and the ground:

 
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Road/beach closures have been announced for further testing: August 12, with 13th & 14th as backup.
Speculation (by Chris B. (@NasaSpaceFlight)) is that this will be a 200m test.
 
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Well, what else could it be. We know this test is planned and that date is the next road closure.
I'm waiting for the promised update on the design and progress.

They installed the bottom of the first main tank in the orbital prototype in Texas: Here is an image.

Edit: Annotated aerial view of the Texas site
 
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NASA and SpaceX released a 250-page "Draft Environmental Assessment for the SpaceX Starship and Super Heavy Launch Vehicle at Kennedy Space Center (KSC)" (direct link to PDF).

Various people have read various parts and there is a lot of discussion at nasaspaceflight.com.
Key points in my opinion:
  • The launch pad will be near the current Falcon 9 pad LC-39A, but separate
  • A crane will put the Super Heavy booster onto the launch pad and then lift Starship on top of it.
  • Super Heavy will land on a barge at least 30 km off-shore. Before it can launch again it has to be shipped to a landing site near the launch site. Makes reuse a bit slower. In the future it might land near the launch site.
  • Starship will land close to the launch pad.
  • Up to 24 launches per year based on this environmental impact assessment. This does not include launches from Texas.
  • The Super Heavy flight profile might look similar to the Falcon 9 boosters. The maximal height is ~140 km.

Edit: Starship updates August 24
 
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gleem

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Still set to launch at 11 pm tonight Aug 16. as of 10:20 am
 
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They didn't get FAA approval in time. No new date yet.

 

gleem

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Wondering about the launch time I posted since I did not see a FAA Notice to airman (NOTSAM).
 
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The NOTAM was there but they didn't get the permission to fly. New road closures are now Wednesday to Friday next week. Not an FAA permission, but SpaceX seems confident to get it by then.

 
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150 meter hop as early as in 2 minutes (but could launch at any point in the next hours, as it is an experimental flight):


Commentary and alternative view here:



Edit: SUCCESS!

This should be the heaviest vehicle ever to land vertically, by the way (same as for the previous hop).
 

etudiant

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Very nice coverage of a solid engineering prototype test. Congratulations to SpaceX!
 
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Musk on Twitter:
Aiming for 20km flight in Oct & orbit attempt shortly thereafter. Starship update will be on Sept 28th, anniversary of SpaceX reaching orbit. Starship Mk 1 will be fully assembled by that time.
Mk 1 is the full-scale prototype produced in Florida Texas. While these time estimates are usually too optimistic* it will still mean an orbital flight before mid 2020 unless something goes horribly wrong. From welding together some steel to orbit in 1-1.5 years.

*sometimes they are spot on. In 2014 he estimated test flights in 5 to 6 years.

SpaceX is thinking about an 18 meter diameter version - four times the area, probably more than four times the payload. But that is quite far into the future.
 
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