Previously, only the SN4 prototype was able to pass fire tests: it coped with the engine burnout but exploded during repeated tests at the end of May. Now the SN5 has passed them. Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, said that it is ready to move on to short-term flight tests at an altitude of 150 meters. If successful, the SN5 prototype will be the first SN ship to make it this far in SpaceX’s program.
The company is developing Starship using the SN prototype series. They have been under construction since last year, after first showing a demonstrator consisting of a hull and a single Raptor engine, which was installed to demonstrate flight and landing capabilities at low altitude. Since then, SpaceX has been building full-scale prototypes to perform a large number of test flights and landings at low altitudes and aims to move to high-altitude testing as quickly as possible.
The first prototypes were known as the Mk1 and Mk2. One was destroyed while testing the fuel tank, and the other was scrapped. Then the company moved on to the development of the SN1 model, giving rise to a new series. Its prototypes were built much faster but failed during tests. For example, the previous SN4 prototype successfully coped with the first fire tests but exploded when trying to break away from the launch pad.
SpaceX has now successfully burned out its SN5 engines and, according to Elon Musk, the first low-altitude flight could take place in the coming weeks. Previously, only SpaceX Starhopper managed to take off: the rocket rose to a height of 150 meters in August 2019. It is impossible to rise higher during the tests: the restriction of the US Federal Aviation Administration, which issues licenses for launches and test flights, interferes.
Starship is a new generation rocket that will reuse not only the first stage but also the second one. It will be able to launch more cargo into orbit than the Falcon 9, but it will cost less. In the future, SpaceX hopes to replace all rockets with Starship and use it to deliver large cargoes to Mars. Before going into space, the rocket has to go through a series of tests. However, Musk intends to complete them as quickly as possible and put the ship into operation: he has already transferred engineers to this project, freed after the successful launch of Crew Dragon.