SpaceX Conducts Starship Static Fire, Plans 150-meter Hop

SpaceX conducted a successful static fire on its Starship vehicle at its south Texas test site on Thursday, paving the way for an 150-meter hop as early as Monday.

Cameron County has issued the following notice for the closing of Boca Chica Beach and Highway 4.

TEMP. CLOSURE DATETIME OF CLOSURECURRENT BEACH STATUS
Primary DateAugust 2, 20208:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.Closure Scheduled
Backup DateAugust 3, 20208:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.Closure Scheduled
Backup DateAugust 4, 20208:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.Closure Scheduled

A Look at SpaceX’s and Virgin Galactic’s Hypersonic Plans

I found this video entertaining. I’m not sure this guy has any grasp of the technological challenges or how SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are trying to tackle it.

He also calls a pair of routine pilot proficiency flights of WhiteKnightTwo at Spaceport America mysterious. Nothing really unusual about them. They conducted these flights at Mojave regularly.

Hypersonic sounds great, but it’s not clear when or if it will carry passengers. What we might be left with are hypersonic weapons indistinguishable from nuclear missiles. The chance of an accidental nuclear exchange could become much greater.

SpaceX Ends Lease at Port of Los Angeles

SpaceX’s plan to build components for its Starship and Super Heavy boosters at the Port of Los Angeles is dead — again.

Elon Musk’s company gave notice to the port on March 27 that it was backing out of a lease to locate a research, development, manufacturing and recovery facility at a dilapidated structure on Terminal Island.

SpaceX gave notice just over a month after harbor commissioners approved a 10-year lease with two 10-year extensions on Feb. 21. The agreement was later approved by the Los Angeles City Council.

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Starship Static Fire Successful

This is the first time that SpaceX’s Starship was able to fire its Raptor engine successfully. And the vehicle is still standing at the company’s Boca Chica test facility in Texas. Three previous versions of the vehicle failed.

The successful test paves the way for a flight test to 150 meters.

A Closer Look at Lunar Landers Proposed by Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX

An astronaut descends the ladder to explore the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA announced that three U.S. companies will develop the human landers that will land astronauts on the Moon beginning in 2024 as part of the Artemis program. These human landers are the final piece of the transportation chain required for sustainable human exploration of the Moon, which includes the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and the Gateway outpost in lunar orbit. 

The awardees for NASA’s Human Landing System contracts are Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, Dynetics (a Leidos company) of Huntsville, Alabama, and SpaceX of Hawthorne, California. These teams offered three distinct lander and mission designs, which will drive a broader range of technology development and, ultimately, more sustainability for lunar surface access. 

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SpaceX’s Starship Survives Cryogenic Pressurization Test

The fourth time was a charm for SpaceX’s Starship.

The fourth version of the space vehicle passed a cryogenic pressurization test that had destroyed three previous versions. Liquid nitrogen was used to test whether the vehicle could hold cryogenic propellants at pressure.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the successful test paves the way for the installation of a single Raptor engine. A static fire of the engine could come as early as this week, he said.

If that test is successful, engineers will attempt to fly the reusable vehicle to 150 meters above SpaceX’s test site near Boca Chica Beach in southern Texas.

Musk said the next version of Starship, SN5, will be fitted out with three Raptor engines to conduct higher flight tests.

SpaceX Starship SN3 Collapses During Cryo Test

Video Caption: Starship SN3 collapsed during a cryogenic proof test designed to validate the vehicle ahead of a planned static fire and 150-meter hop. SpaceX will now have to instead focus on future Starship builds.

Footage via Mary (@BocaChicaGal) for NSF and edited by Jack Beyer (thejackbeyer)

Video Caption: Another very disappointing end to the week with SpaceX SN3 Starship Destroyed. Looks like the Liquid Oxygen Tank Crumpled. This is quite disappointing as we had huge hopes for the SN 3 because it looked just so much more robust. The welds were looking really beautiful.

The SN 4 is already being built so we can look forward to that which is going come up rapidly much quicker than most people would realize.

A huge thank you to Boca Chica girl with NASAspaceflight and also LabPadre links to both of those incredibly awesome channels below.

Editor’s Note: It’s disconcerting that work on this project is continuing during the coronavirus pandemic. I reviewed the video above that shows the stacking of the the Starship prototype that collapsed on the test stand this morning.

Credits: BocaChicaGal, NASASpaceflight.com & Marcus House

The above screenshot taken at 4:54 into the video shows employees working closely together without observing the six feet social distancing guidelines or wearing protective masks to guard against infecting each other with the deadlly COVID-19 virus.

Any one of these workers could have the virus for a week without showing any symptoms. During that time, an infected worker could unknowingly pass COVID-19 onto his co-workers. The result of that could be severe illness or death. Even young, seemingly healthy individuals have died when their respiratory systems collapsed.

SpaceX is legally exempt from closing its doors because it is classified as an essential business. That is due to the fact that Elon Musk’s company is a government contractor that performs vital, time critical work for NASA and the Department of Defense.

Starship, however, does not appear to be either vital or time critical. It’s a long-term development project that SpaceX is funding on its own. Neither NASA nor DOD is going to use Starship at any time in the near future. Their launch needs are satisfied by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy as well as the nation’s fleet of expendable boosters.

SpaceX’s goal of preserving humanity by making it a multi-planetary species is noble enough. It doesn’t need to place the humans making that possible at unnecessary risk in the midst of a deadly global pandemic.

SpaceX’s Starship SN3 Arrives at Launch Site

Video Caption: SpaceX Starship SN3 has arrived at the launch site and is being integrated ahead of a test campaign that includes pressure testing, Static Fire(s) and a hop.

Video and Photos by Mary (@BocaChicaGal) for NSF. Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer)

NASA to Fund Researchers to Fly on Suborbital Vehicles, Maybe Astronauts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

After spending a few years in hibernation, the Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) is being held in Colorado this week. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but I’ve been following all the action on Twitter.

In a keynote address on Monday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine floated the idea of letting the space agency’s astronauts fly aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicles. He also discussed certifying the systems to comply with a subset of NASA’s human ratings requirements.

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Starship Goes Boom at Boca Chica

A cryo test went sideways in Texas on Friday night.

Credit: STARSHIP CAM

SpaceX’s Starship vehicle was turned into a pile of debris on Friday evening at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.

Credit: STARSHIP CAM

First, vapor appeared around the rocket at ground level.

Credit: STARSHIP CAM

Then everything went boom.

Credit: STARSHIP CAM

And boom.

Credit: STARSHIP CAM

When the smoke and flames cleared, a pile of debris was revealed.

SpaceX Could Launch 70 Times From Florida in 2023

Mobile service tower surrounding Falcon Heavy booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX would be launching up to 70 times annually from Florida by 2023, including polar orbit launches that are not currently conducted from the Sunshine State.

Elon Musk’s rocket company is also planning to construct a mobile service tower (MST) to support commercial and national security launches from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

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LA City Council Approves SpaceX Production Facility at Port

Figure 2-3. Proposed Starship Reentry and Landing

The Los Angeles City Council has granted a permit to SpaceX to build a research, development, manufacturing and recovery facility at a dilapidated terminal at the Port of Los Angeles.

The 12-0 vote followed the approval of the plan by harbor commissioners last week for the development of the facility on Terminal Island. SpaceX will produce engines and other components for its starship vehicle at the new facility.

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SpaceX Looks to Raise More Money

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

CNBC reports that SpaceX is looking to raise another round of funding.

The company is seeking to bring in about $250 million at a price of $220 a share, according to people familiar with the financing. The new raise would value SpaceX at around $36 billion, up from $33.3 billion  previously.

The round is not expected to close until the second week of March, those people told CNBC, and includes an equivalent purchase offer to existing SpaceX shareholders.

SpaceX did not respond to CNBC’s requests for comment. The details of the raise could change depending on market conditions between now and the second week of March.

Last year SpaceX raised $1.33 billion across three funding rounds. It’s one of the most valuable private companies in the world and, with consistently oversubscribed capital raises, SpaceX shares rank as some of the most in demand of any pre-IPO companies as well.

The steady fundraising comes as SpaceX continues development on three important programs: Crew Dragon, Starlink and Starship.