SpaceX can run and chew gum at the same time.
Elon Musk’s company is preparing to launch its first crewed mission on Saturday (May 30th) Test flight called Demo-2 that will send two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.
Demo-2 uses SpaceXs Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket, and the flight will take off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But today (May 28), the company in Texas tested a completely different vehicle that is supposed to pave the way for humanity into space.
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SpaceX briefly lit the single Starship SN4 Raptor engine, the company̵
It was the fourth “static fire test” for the SN4 and the second with this special Raptor engine. The previous static fire was a little hot, scorch the base of the spacecraft, but the flames seemed to be behaving this time.
Musk said he would soon take the SN4 for a spin, on a test flight without screws up to a target height of around 150 meters. With four static fires in the books, SN4 seems ready to take that leap. But the prototype will not go into operation before Demo-2.
“I have redirected SpaceX’s priorities so that they focus very much on the start of the crew,” said Musk said Irene Klotz of Aviation Week & Space Technology recently. “As a rough guess, I think we’re a few weeks from a jump.”
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SpaceX has its papers, by the way, to get Starship prototypes pretty high. The Federal Aviation Administration’s Office for Commercial Space has granted the company a two-year term today License to start suborbital flights from the Boca Chica website.
The final version of Starship will be 50 meters tall and can accommodate 100 passengers, Musk said. The ship is powered by six raptors. It will launch from Earth on a giant rocket called Super Heavy, which will carry 31 of its own raptors. (Starship doesn’t need Super Heavy to take off from the Moon or Mars, which have much weaker gravitational pull than our planet.)
Both Spaceship and super heavy will be fully and quickly reusable, making the system affordable enough to support all types of ambitious exploration projects, Musk said. The most important of these planned accomplishments is the colonization of Mars, which has been the goal of Musk for decades.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for strange life. Follow him on Twitter @ Michaeleldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.