Monday , November 30 2020

Elon Musk's SpaceX can launch & # 39; Test Hopper & # 39; – a prototype for a giant Mars rocket ship – for the first time this week, Business Insider



SpaceX employees are crawling the bottom of test jumpers to a launch pad near Boca Chica Beach, Texas, March 8, 2019.

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SpaceX employees are crawling the bottom of test jumpers to a launch pad near Boca Chica Beach, Texas, March 8, 2019.
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Maria Pointer (bocachicaMaria)
  • SpaceX has built a stainless steel rocket ship at its starting point near Boca Chica Beach, located at the southern tip of Texas.
  • "Test Hopper" is the first, but only partially functional prototype of Starship: a launch system that SpaceX founder Elon Musk hopes to use to send people to Mars.
  • A sheriff's hand-held road closure informs residents on Friday, according to a source living near Boca Chica Beach. The document warned the locals that SpaceX will "test" as soon as Monday, March 18.
  • SpaceX earlier said that test jumpers "will be tamed during the first test" and that any of its "hops" – short vertical launches and landings – will not be visible "from offsite".
  • A resident did not report receiving the message. The person also claims that SpaceX promised a schedule for launch activities, but has not yet delivered one.

SpaceX, the airline founded by Elon Musk and led by Gwynne Shotwell, is testing the launch of its first rocket ship prototype designed to send people to Mars, according to a document by Business Insider .

SpaceX can start shooting up the "Test Hopper" prototype as soon as Monday, according to a message posted in the mailboxes of some residents near Boca Chica Beach, located at the southernmost tip of Texas.

SpaceX began building its launch site in Boca Chica in 2014 for the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. But Musk said in early 2018 that Boca Chica "will be dedicated to" the new Mars vehicle, called Starship.

On March 8, SpaceX searched the bottom of its mirrored test hopper for a launch pad at Boca Chica. Recently, engineers joined a single Raptor rocket engine with a truck size – the newest and most powerful machine MachineXX ever developed – to the bottom of the vehicle.

Test Hopper cannot start in space, but it will try crucial hardware and ideas that SpaceX will create a full-scale Starship (formerly called Big Falcon Rocket).

Left to Right: An illustration of SpaceX & # 39; s

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Left to Right: An illustration of SpaceX's "test jumps", Starship spaceship, its booster, a Falcon 9 rocket, and an integrated Starship launch system.
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© Kimi Talvitie

If fully understood, Starship can stand about 400 meters high, be fully recyclable and use a "bleeding" atmospheric reentry system. And if Musk's "hopeful" dreams come true for the system, Starship can now circulate in 2020, send its first crew around the moon in 2023 and launch the first humans against Mars in 2024. Ultimately, it can ferry up to 100 people and eventually 150 tons of goods at a time to the red planet.

Read more: Life in a bubble: How we can fight hunger, loneliness and radiation on Mars

But first, SpaceX must prove the basic concepts behind Starship's work with its Test Hopper.

Comments from a company representative as well as the announcement allegedly entrusted to some Boca Chica residents suggest that SpaceX will try Test Hopper's first integrated rocket engine as soon as Monday, followed by bound "hop" trial launches shortly. then.

Why Decisive Test Hopper & # 39; Launches are imminent

Test Hopper - a prototype of SpaceX & # 39; s Starship system - is joining its nosekone at the company's launch site in Boca Chica, Texas. "Class =" bi_image size-medium wp-image-1813181 "bisrc =" https: //static.businessinsider .com / image / 5c65821b26289876e434ece6.png

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Test Hopper – a prototype of the SpaceX & # 39; s Starship System – with its nosecone gathered at the company's launch site in Boca Chica, Texas.
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Copyright Jaime Almaguer

Test Hopper cannot fly into orbit around Earth. It is a relatively raw and squat machine, with its lower section standing about 60 feet high. The rocket ship is designed to fly on short "hops" that do not go more than about 16,400 feet in the air, according to a Federal Communications Commission application.

In January, Musk said his company would build a higher-level stand-by version "around June" and it the rocket ship would have "Thicker skins (will not wrinkle) and a smooth curved nose section." This timeline is now uncertain, but since crazy-force Texas winds blew over and damaged Test Hopper's nosecone in February. Musk said the day of the incident that it would take weeks to repair the nosekon.

Nosecone or not, SpaceX moves forward with the earliest test burns of its test hopper on a beach launch pad.

"SpaceX will conduct a checkout of the newly installed earth systems and perform a short static fire test in the coming days," a SpaceX representative for Business Insider said in an email last week.

A "static fire" lights up a rocket motor to make sure it works, but the vehicle on which it is – in this case, test jumpers – is held down so as not to lift off the ground. Such tests help engineers find and troubleshoot any problems before attempting a launch seriously.

"Although the prototype is designed to perform sub-orbital flights or hops powered by the SpaceX Raptor engine, the vehicle will be tampered with during the first test, and hops will not be visible from the offsite," the company's representative added. "SpaceX will establish a security zone perimeter in coordination with local enforcement and signage will be in place to alert the community prior to testing."

A local sheriff issued a paper warning about the test to residents before the weekend, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The message Business Insider received a photo said:

"NOTE TO BOCA CHICA VILLAGE RESIDENTS"

"SpaceX plans to test as soon as the week of March 18, 2019 on the company's site, located near Boca Chica Beach, Cameron County, Texas. During these tests, SpaceX will establish a security zone perimeter in conjunction with local law enforcement. will be in place prior to testing to warn the community of any temporary closure of Highway 4 and Boca Chica Beach.

"Boca Chica Village residents will have access to their home during testing."

The printed notice also contained a tagged Google Map, reproduced below, and the following text to accompany it:

"[T]Wo temporary checkpoints will be established on Highway 4. Persons providing proof of stay between the two checkpoints are allowed to continue through the soft checkpoint. Access beyond the hard checkpoint will not be allowed during temporary closures. "

A map showing Cameron County's planned shutdown in Boca Chica, Texas, beginning the week of March 18, 2019. "class =" bi_image size-medium wp-image-1813180 "bisrc =" https://static.businessinsider.com/ image / 5c8dd00f6123ca74cc12ed82.jpg

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A map showing Cameron County's planned road closures in Boca Chica, Texas, starting this week on March 18, 2019.
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Google Maps; Business Insider

"We deserve the courtesy"

The hard control point is approx. 1.5 km west of SpaceX & # 39; s launch pad, as well as the easternmost homes in Boca Chica Village.

In comparison, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida allows visitors to witness launch activity no closer than 3 miles away from its most famous launch pad.

Read more: I saw SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket thunder in space for the first time – here's how it was on the ground

A resident of the Boca Chica Village community who asked not to be named, told Business Insider that the sheriff had never informed their home. The resident also said that a SpaceX representative previously committed to delivering launch schedules, but has not yet done so. "We deserve the courtesy" from SpaceX, said the resident, given the launch site's very close proximity to homes.

Even Cameron County's judge, Eddie Treviño, did not seem to know the character or timing of SpaceX's test plans when he approved the road closures on Thursday.

"It's exciting and we know we're moving closer and closer to the first test or what they want to do," said Treviño, according to The Brownsville Herald. "We wish them good luck and we are excited."

SpaceX did not immediately respond to Business Insider questions regarding the size of the scope of security and potential risks posed by static fires and hops to residents. The company filed environmental impact claims in May 2014, which discussed launch risks and safeguards, but these documents do not describe a test program similar to Test Hopper or launches of extremely large Mars viable vehicles.

But for his part, Musk has at least teased the opportunity for years.

"It may well be that the first person going to another planet will deviate from this location," he said during a groundbreaking ceremony in September 2014.


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