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SpaceX encountered a snag in an attempted test key to the development of its next-generation Starship spacecraft. Specifically, the StarHopper sub scale demonstration and testing craft it’s using to work on the Starthip’s propulsion system fails to undertake its first untethered test flight at a testing site in Boca Chica Beach in Texas,

The plan was to have the demonstration craft take off and fly to a height of 20 meters before returning to Earth, all under tis own power and directed by its own guidance system. Instead, It seemed to fire rockets and then was engulfed in smoke, before venting fire out of the top of the test craft for a few minutes prior to extinguishing, with StarHopper looking relatively unscathed. We’re still waiting on official confirmation of what happened from SpaceX, but they characterized this as an “abort” on a livestream of the test.

Last week during a static test fire, the StarHopper vehicle was engulfed in a large ball of flame. This wasn’t a planned event, but did not result in significant damage to the spacecraft, SpaceX later said.

StarHopper succeeded in flying its first tethered flight at the beginning of April, and has undergone further testing since then to prepare for this untethered trip. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said earlier this month that a successful untethered test would pave the way for a full presentation of SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft plans at the end of July, but the test has encountered a few issues since then.

The reason SpaceX and other companies run tests like these is to identify potential issues early in the development process, so it’s good to see them making progress even if that doesn’t mean a “success” in the traditional sense of actually having achieved untethered flight.

SpaceX designed Starship will be fully reusable once complete, unlike Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, so it’ll reduce the cost of launches, and the company hopes to eventually use it to fly all its missions, though it’ll keep Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy in service for its paying customers as long as there’s appetite.


TechCrunch

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk believes that both the Texas and Florida Starship prototype rockets being developed by the private space company will fly “in 2 to three months,” which is an aggressive timeline considering the planned untethered flight of its Starhopper demonstration prototype missed its target of running this past week.

SpaceX is developing two Starship prototypes in parallel, at both its Texas and Florida facilities, in what is sometime referred to in the technology industry as a ‘bake-off.’ Both teams develop their own rockets independently, in an attempt to spur a sense of internal competition and potentially arrive at combined progress that wouldn’t be possible with just a single team working together on the task.

Earlier this month, Musk stated that the inaugural untethered test of its Starhopper (Hopper for short) Starship tech demo prototype would happen this past Tuesday, July 16. Those plans were derailed when a preliminary test firing of its engines resulted in a large fireball captured on camera by many local observers. Musk later said on Twitter that this was the result of a “post test fuel leak” but added that there was actually no significant damage to the sub-scale Starhopper itself.

The SpaceX CEO then continued with a new timeline for the untethered test, saying it should happen sometime this coming week instead. That’s definitely a required step for the company to take ahead of any test flights of the more complete Starhopper prototypes.

Those initial test will be sub-orbital flights, Musk said on Friday, with orbital tests to follow some “2 to 3 months” after those first test flights 2 to 3 months from today – so, that puts the earliest orbital test flights for Starship at just 4 to 6 months from now. Based on how Musk’s stated timelines match up with reality, you should definitely consider that an extremely optimistic assessment.

Musk also shared some detail about how Starship will launch – it’ll use a launch structure, which is currently under construction at another site, much like Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy does today.


TechCrunch


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