Component not required in pressurization tests, as in the past, or low altitude tests, such as what will be carried out this week. Maneuver may indicate preparation for higher flights
For the first time in almost a year, SpaceX has piled a “nose” on top of a section of a Starship prototype. The maneuver may indicate that the company is preparing for a new series of aerodynamic tests on its spacecraft.
The first prototype of Starship, called MK1, was presented in was “structurally complete”, with nose, but it was nowhere near functional. After the presentation he was dismantled and his fuel tank was used in a pressurization test when it exploded.
Since then SpaceX has built seven more prototypes. SN1 and SN3 exploded in pressurization tests, SN2 passed the tests, SN4 caught fire, SN5 was used on a low altitude flight over the next few days and SN7 was purposely destroyed to test the durability of a new steel alloy.
But none of these prototypes had a nose. It is unnecessary in pressurization tests, and aerodynamically it makes no difference in low altitude tests like the SN5. Still, the company has about five noses ready at its base in Boca Chica, Texas, probably built to test and perfect production and assembly techniques.
It is not clear where the nose that was stacked this week will be used. Even if the SN5 survives its first flight, it is unlikely to receive an upgrade with the three Raptor engines required for testing at high altitude, this is likely to happen in a prototype built specifically for this purpose.
Starship SN6 almost complete, and section of the SN8 left. Photo: BocaChicaGal
Possible candidates are SN6, which is almost ready, or SN8, whose construction has already started. It is also possible that the stacking was only a maneuver to test the procedure, and that the nose used was not designed for flight.
Either way, Starship is taking shape. It is very likely that it will not land on the Moon in 2021, as predicted by Musk, but little by little the dream of a vehicle capable of transporting a large number of people to space will become a reality.
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