After weeks upon weeks of wait and preparations, the Starship SN20 prototype was at last ready for the cryogenic pressure-proof testing earlier this week on Monday, Sep 27th.
But unexpectedly during the cyro-proof testing, some of the heat shield tiles fell off the nosecone area of Ship 20. Most probably this wasn’t a surprise for SpaceX but for the enthusiasts and public, it certainly was.
A Starship development program observer from NasaSpaceflight.com captured the very moments through his camera when some of the heat shield tiles were falling off the Starship SN20 during the test.
It took a great amount of time for SpaceX to complete the installation of the theral protection system (TPS) tiles on Starship 20. The cause of this delay was the specific shape of some tiles that had to be separately designed and produced. Now it seems SpaceX has lost those nosecone tiles again in this test.
Starship 20 went through the pneumatic (ambient) test before the cryo-proof test on Monday. In a pneumatic test, gaseous Nitrogen is filled in a spaceship for pressure testing. And super-cooled liquid nitrogen is used for cryogenic-pressure-proof testing.
The cryo-test (cryogenic pressure test) ensures if a spaceship is able to withstand in-flight atmospheric pressures and extremely low temperatures. This is achieved by simulating the in-flight conditions by filling the Starship with liquid nitrogen that has a temperature of −196 °C [−320 °F].SpaceX moves Starship SN20 to the suborbital launch pad B at Starbase
These tests performed on Starship SN20 and the Super Heavy Booster 4 prototypes are a preparation exercise aimed at the first Starship orbital test aimed towards the end of this year. SpaceX aims to achieve flight readiness and approvals by November.
The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is asking for public input on the draft environmental review for the proposed SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy program in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX CEO has also asked his followers and fans to support his company’s mission that ultimately aims at making human life multi-planetary.
Public review process for Starship/Super Heavy draft PEA will be closed by the FAA on 18th Oct 2021 (PDF here).
Comments in Elon Musk’s Twitter thread and elsewhere hint that SpaceX will easily get a go ahead for the Starship orbital flight test program.