The last SpaceX Starship prototype is a big step forward towards take-off.
Elon Musk’s company is preparing to launch this vehicle, known as the SN10, on a 10-kilometer-high test flight from its South Texas site in the near future.
And those preparations can really accelerate now, as SpaceX and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) just concluded an investigation into the last such flight, a Feb. 2 escapade that ended with the predecessor. from SN10, SN9, explode on touchdown.
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“The FAA closed the investigation into the SpaceX Starship SN9 prototype crash on February 2, paving the way for the SN10 test flight pending FAA approval of license updates,” a door said. – FAA spoke on Friday February 19 in an e-mailed statement.
“The FAA oversaw the investigation into the SN9 crash conducted by SpaceX. The SN9 vehicle failed within the limits of the FAA’s safety analysis,” the statement continued. “Its unsuccessful landing and explosion did not endanger the public or property. All debris was contained within the designated danger zone. The FAA approved the final accident report, including probable causes and corrective actions.”
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SpaceX is developing Starship to transport people and goods to Mars and other distant destinations. The architecture consists of two reusable elements: a 165-foot-tall (50-meter) spacecraft called the Starship and a giant rocket known as the Super Heavy.
Both of these vehicles will be powered by SpaceX’s next-generation Raptor engine. The final ship will have six Raptors and Super Heavy will carry around 30, Musk said.
SpaceX is heading towards the operational Starship via a series of increasingly complex prototypes, several of which have already taken off. The SN8 and SN9 vehicles – both of which had three Raptors, as does SN10 – flew about 6 miles high on December 9, 2020 and February 2, respectively. Both performed well until the very end, don’t stick their landings.
These test flights require FAA approval. SpaceX launched SN8 in December despite the refusal of a waiver exceed the maximum risk to public safety that federal regulations allow, FAA officials said earlier this month. SpaceX then had to halt all testing at the South Texas site that could affect public safety until it completed an investigation into the incident and took corrective action approved by the FAA.
The resulting delay seemed to anger Musk, who escaped Posted January 28 on Twitter that “the FAA space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure.”
Unsurprisingly, the ambitious Musk has an aggressive schedule for Starship. He recently said he wanted a prototype to reach Earth orbit this year and the vehicle should be steal people regularly by 2023.
Mike Wall is the author of “Over there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.