In a series of tweets on September 27, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk shared details regarding the upcoming testing of the company’s latest Starship prototype.
SpaceX has been building and testing prototypes of its next-generation super heavy-lift launch vehicle at the company’s Boca Chica facility in Texas since early 2019. The latest, designated SN8, is nearing completion and is slated to make the first significant flight.
In an image shared on Musk’s personal Twitter page, the SN8 prototype’s fuselage has been fitted with its, “rear body flaps.” These flaps are designed to be used to control the vehicle during a maneuver that will see it re-enter Earth’s atmosphere belly first rotating as it nears the ground in order to touch down vertically.
With the fitment of the nose cone and front flaps this coming week, the SN8 prototype will be largely complete. It will then likely be fitted with three next-generation Raptor engines, if it hasn’t already, and readied for flight.
Musk said that SpaceX plans to launch the SN8 prototype on a 15-kilometer suborbital flight. The altitude is necessary to test the body flaps and to confirm propellant is being drawn from the vehicle’s headers and not the main tank, the flight’s two main objectives.
In addition to work progressing on SN8, images of the SpaceX Boca Chica have revealed that hardware for several other prototypes is already being constructed. A total of three additional nose cones over and above the SN8 article have already been completed. At least one of the three may be fitted to the first orbital Starship prototype.