SpaceX: the Starship’s prototype SN11 is ready to take off!

SpaceX is about to fly a new “flying tank”. After SN10, which exploded more than eight minutes after landing, SN11 must confirm the good impressions left by the previous prototype which carried out a demonstration flight almost without faults.

The development of the Starship is certainly more laborious than Elon Musk had planned, who planned manned flights around the Moon in 2022. A perennial optimist, Musk has since updated its objectives and set… 2023 as the first manned flight to the Moon, which still seems very ambitious, if not impossible. The deadlines are obviously too short! A demonstration flight will necessarily be necessary, or even two, before boarding humans aboard the Starship. That said, if it is not 2023, it will be 2025.

Two weeks after the successful flight of the SN10, SpaceX is about to fly a new flying tank, the SN11. This prototype will be the last iteration of a series of 4 SN that have all completed the same demo flight profile. That is, a flight up to ten kilometres above sea level, followed by a return to the ground by performing the so-called belly flop manoeuvre, characteristic of reusable launchers and which consists of a controlled tipping, from horizontal to vertical to prepare for landing. SN8 and SN9 exploded on landing, while SN10, several minutes after landing.

SN11 therefore aims to repeat the nice flight performance of SN10 which, let us recall, had nothing historical as it can be read here or there, and to land safely, without exploding several minutes later, as was the case with SN10. The SpaceX teams understood the causes of this explosion and made the necessary changes to the SN11.

Test flight of the SN10 prototype on 3 March 2021. If the flight apparently went well, the prototype exploded on the ground, about eight minutes after landing!© SpaceX

In July, head to the space for the SN and BN prototypes

After that, SpaceX will speed up with orbital flights starting in July with SN20 and BN3, according to the website. SN12, 13 and 14 are “abandoned” or reserved for ground-specific testing. They leave their place to SN15, 16 and 17 who should prepare this first orbital flight of a SN.

SN15 should differentiate itself from previous prototypes with new modifications to the engine and others that have not yet been unveiled, and its fuselage should be covered with thermal protection.

The BN (Booster Number) prototypes, from the Super Heavy main stage, necessary to launch Starship, will come into action. BN1 should not be flown. It will only be used to perform taxi tests, or even a static test of its engines. BN2 will conduct a test flight, perhaps at a suborbital altitude, to prepare for the orbital flight – that is, in space – of SN20 powered by BN3.

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