SpaceX is preparing to soar over South Texas on Wednesday in the latest test of a prototype of its Starship starship.
A future model of the vehicle is central to the goal of Elon Musk, the rocket company’s founder and CEO, to one day bring people to Mars. NASA recently placed an order with SpaceX build a version of Starship that would take astronauts to the surface of the moon later that decade.
The test known as SN15 is said to be the fifth high-altitude flight of the spacecraft system. You can see the live stream of the test on SpaceX YouTube channel or in the video player below:
In four previous tests conducted since December, the missiles launched successfully and exhibited controlled belly flops back to the ground after reaching an altitude of several miles. But each time, problems during the landing or after the missile touchdown led to spectacular explosions.
While the last flight on a foggy March 30ththe engines were re-ignited at the beginning of the landing process. But SpaceX’s live video paused for almost six minutes after launch. Reporting by NASASpaceflight, a website for space enthusiastsshowed shards of metal raining around the launch site, including debris hitting one of the site’s cameras.
Mr. Musk said on Twitter after this test that there appeared to be a problem with one of the engines during the ascent and it was not working quite properly when it was re-ignited to land.
SpaceX takes a fail-safe and fastest possible approach. The tests are used to identify design flaws and make adjustments on subsequent flights. An announcement by NASA in April could draw attention to Starship’s advances and setbacks.
A few weeks ago NASA placed an order with SpaceX for $ 2.9 billion to use Starship to take astronauts from lunar orbit to the lunar surface. The contract is part of the Artemis program, and NASA was expected to select more than one company to build a lunar lander. This reflects the approach the space agency has taken in hiring companies to move cargo and now astronauts to the International space station.
Following the announcement, NASA’s decision was challenged by the other two companies competing for the contract: Blue origin, the private company founded by Jeff Bezos, the executive director of Amazon; and Dynetics, a defense company in Huntsville, Ala. NASA now has instructed SpaceX to cease work on the lunar spaceship until the Government Accountability Office makes a decision on the protests. The challenge does not affect SpaceX’s work on the Starship models that are currently being tested in Texas.
Mr. Musk’s company has grown successful in the startup business and is now one of the most valuable privately owned companies in the world. Its Falcon 9 rockets have become a dominant workhorse for launching satellites into orbit. It routinely transports cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station. Last month it took four astronauts to the space station for NASA and later on Saturday brought another crew home in a nightly splashdown.
However, many are skeptical of Mr. Musk’s claim that the company is only a few years away from sending a spaceship to Mars, saying he has repeatedly set schedules for SpaceX that have proven far too optimistic.
In 2019 when he provided an update on the development of StarshipHe said an altitude test would take place within months and that orbital flights could take place in early 2020.
Instead, several catastrophic failures occurred due to faulty welding. When the fuel tanks stopped bursting, two of the prototypes made short successful flights last year. These earlier Starship prototypes resembled spray paint cans with the labels removed and soared nearly 500 feet on a single rocket engine before being returned to the test site in Texas.
Despite being lifted from the ground many times, Starship is still a long way from being ready for a trip into orbit. But SpaceX already has future tests in mind that will send subsequent Starship prototypes to much greater heights. March, Mr. Musk shared a picture a prototype of the large booster stage needed for a trip into space. It’s over 200 feet tall.