On Tuesday, photos of a new, Starship-like vehicle were popping up in an industrial park near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Later, SpaceX founder Elon Musk confirmed that the company will develop a Starship prototype in Florida in parallel with work in South Texas.
"Both locations will produce many starships," Musk shared on Twitter. "This is a competition to find out which location is the most effective and the answer could be both." This is not a strict A / B test but a randomized experiment. Rather, Musk added all the insights gained by one team must be shared with the other team, but the other team does not have to use them.
This is a pretty new way to develop a spacecraft in orbit. Especially one that is as big and as complex as the spaceship that is destined to land and take off from other worlds such as the Moon and Mars. However, it is anything but unprecedented in the technology world. For example, Google has long pursued the strategy of making two of everything with multiple competing products targeting the same user base.
Musk also released an update on the development of Raptor engines that will power both the Starship vehicle and the Starship vehicle, its companion rocket Super Heavy. SpaceX will eventually need dozens of engines for the spacecraft and the rocket. First, the company is testing the prototype of the Starship with one or three engines. SpaceX has now completed four of the engines and is building the fifth in Hawthorne, California. By next year, the company should have built more than 100 methane engines, Musk added.
In the meantime, after about five weeks of downtime, SpaceX seems ready to begin activities at its Boca Chica test site in South Texas. In early April, a series of tests culminated in a short jump of a Starship prototype. Now the company can start testing activities again later this month. The Brownsville Herald reports that a nearby highway, State Highway 4 from Oklahoma Avenue to Boca Chica Beach, will be closed on May 28 between 14:00 and 22:00 hrs CT or alternatively on May 29 and May 30 Starship will be launched in 2020, but as with all major aerospace projects, this date is likely to fall later into the 2020s. A speedy flight would be remarkable given the lack of government resources and the general ambitions of the project.