After a miserable week with extreme cold, power grid failure, strong winds and general chaos, conditions are improving, the sun is shining, and SpaceX boss Elon Musk believes there is a “good chance” that Starship serial number 10 (SN10) can start “this week” ! “
The third full-scale, full-height Starship completed by SpaceX since the Starship SN8 rolled from factory to launch pad in October 2020, the Starship SN10 is the penultimate in a series of four similar prototypes built for the sole purpose of proving unique. method of landing rockets. On its December 8 debut, the Starship SN8 – the first prototype to be launched with a nose, flaps, three Raptor engines and a high apogee target ̵
After more than six minutes of flawless flight, breaking all sorts of records for Starship’s Raptor engine and achieving more ‘first time’, an unexpected problem with the tank pressure caused SN8 to lose thrust and affect the ground at speed only 10-20 seconds before a planned soft landing. Less than two months later, Starship SN9 tried – almost identically – to take off and land identically 10 km (6.2 mi), only to fail at about the same time as SN8 – albeit for different reasons.
SN10 is already installed on a new launch bracket when Starship SN9 lifted at a time, and thus has the task of avoiding the pressure problem with ‘header tank’ that judged SN8 and Raptor reignition failure that judged SN9. If SpaceX has fixed the two or three critical issues in the weeks since, the SN10 has arguably the best chance yet to succeed in touching in one piece.
If the SN10 fails to hold the landing, SpaceX has another Starship – the SN11 – more or less complete and ready to roll to the launch pad to pick up wherever its predecessor ends. Due to the completely unexpected degree Starship SN8 beat expectations, SpaceX seemed to scrap plans to build Starships SN12, 13 and 14 – literally in the case of SN12.
Instead, SpaceX accelerated plans to implement “major [Starship] upgrades ”from SN15 onwards. Sections of the starships SN15, SN16, SN17, SN18 and SN19 are visible in SpaceX’s South Texas rocket factory, while work continues simultaneously on the first two Super Heavy booster prototypes – BN1 and BN2.
Prior to launch, the Starship SN10 must still complete a healthy three-engine static fire test that was delayed from last week until Monday 22 February at the earliest. Backup windows are available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If the Starship SN10 can launch the Raptor engines without any problems at some point during the three-day period, the odds are good that SpaceX will be able to squeeze in at least one or two launch attempts before the weekend.