SpaceX just popped another Spaceship Test tank.
The Starship SN7.1 tank was deliberately destroyed during a pressure test on Tuesday evening (September 22nd) at the SpaceX facility in South Texas to push the stainless steel fittings to their burst point.
SpaceX conducted several other such tests, including one last June blew the top off the SN7 tank. Such attempts provide information on future iterations of Starship, the 100-passenger spaceship that Elon Musk is developing to take people to Mars, the Moon, and other cosmic destinations.
The death of SN7.1 paves the way for testing of the SN8 prototype, which could begin as early as this weekend. If SN8 does a series of box and engine tests, it will attempt a 20-kilometer flight into the skies of southern Texas, Musk said.
Two full-size Starship prototypes have already gone into operation – the SN5 and SN6, each of which reached a height of around 150 meters in recent test flights. (“SN” stands for “serial number” in case you’re wondering.)
The flights of the SN5 and SN6 were powered by a single Raptor engine. The SN8 will have three raptors as well as a nose cone and control-enhancing body flaps, additional features that were missing from its predecessors.
The final spaceship will have six raptors, making the 50-foot-tall vehicle strong enough to launch from the moon and Mars, Musk said. But Starship is going to need help getting away from our bulkier earth, so it will launch from here on a giant rocket called Very difficultwhich is powered by around 30 of its own raptors.
Starship and Super Heavy are designed to be fully and quickly reusable. Musk envisions the duo dramatically reducing the cost of space travel – so dramatically that ambitious feats like colonizing Mars become economically feasible.
Mike Wall is the author of Out There (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for other people’s lives. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.