SpaceX’s Starship Survives Cryogenic Pressurization Test

The fourth time was a charm for SpaceX’s Starship.

The fourth version of the space vehicle passed a cryogenic pressurization test that had destroyed three previous versions. Liquid nitrogen was used to test whether the vehicle could hold cryogenic propellants at pressure.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the successful test paves the way for the installation of a single Raptor engine. A static fire of the engine could come as early as this week, he said.

If that test is successful, engineers will attempt to fly the reusable vehicle to 150 meters above SpaceX’s test site near Boca Chica Beach in southern Texas.

Musk said the next version of Starship, SN5, will be fitted out with three Raptor engines to conduct higher flight tests.

SpaceX Seeks FCC Approval to Fly Starship to 20 Km

Starship on the moon. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has submitted an application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for communications frequencies to fly its Starship vehicle to an altitude of 20 km (12.4 miles) at its Boca Chica Beach facility in Texas.

The approval would allow for communications between the vehicle and the ground. The proposed six-month time frame for the flight is from March 16 to Sept. 16, 2020.

Starship is a prototype of an orbital vehicle that Elon Musk’s company is developing for missions in Earth orbit and to the moon and Mars. SpaceX also hopes to use it for rapid point-to-point transportation between distant cities on earth.

SpaceX Says Destroyed Starship Wasn’t Going to Fly Anyway

SpaceX said the Starship Mk1 vehicle that exploded at its Boca Chica Beach test facility on Wednesday wasn’t going to fly, despite what company Founder Elon Musk had promised during a webcast in September.

“The decision had already been made to not fly this test article and the team is focused on the Mk3 builds, which are designed for orbit,”  the company said in a statement.

The rocket, constructed out of stainless steel, literally blew its top while it was undergoing a pressurization test.

“The purpose of today’s test was to pressurize systems to the max, so the outcome was not completely unexpected,” SpaceX said. “There were no injuries, nor is this a serious setback.”

During a webcast from Boca Chica on Sept. 28, Musk stood in front of the vehicle and said it it would fly to 65,000 (19.8 km) within a month or two. He also said he hoped an upgraded variant of Starship would make an orbital flight within six months.

The SpaceX founder also talked about rapid iteration of the vehicle. Starships are being developed at Boca Chica and a site in Florida.

SpaceX is developing Starship for missions to Earth orbit, the moon and Mars. Musk has also pitched the spacecraft as a civilian transport for rapid point to point travel between distant locations on Earth.

For space missions, Starship will be teamed with a first-stage booster known as the Super Heavy.

Elon Musk to Provide Starship Update on Saturday as NASA Administrator Gives a Bronx Cheer

UPDATE: The presentation will be at around 8 p.m. EDT tonight. It will be webcast at www.spacex.com/webcast.

If you had plans for Saturday night, you might want to change them.

SpaceX Founder Elon Musk will provide an update on the progress of the Starship Mk1 vehicle live from the company’s test site at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.

Musk tweeted the presentation will start at 6 or 7 p.m. CDT (7 or 8 p.m. EDT).. There are reportedly plans to webcast the event, most likely via the SpaceX website (www.spacex.com). However, those details have not been confirmed.

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Boca Chica Homeowners Scoff at SpaceX’s Low-ball Offers

Starhopper aborts a hop attempt at Boca Chica. (Credit: SpaceX webcast screen shot)

The Valley Star reports that SpaceX’s offer to buy out a group of homeowners near its Texas test site at Boca Chica Beach is not going over very well with everyone.

Although the Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket company, in a letter dated Sept. 12 and sent via FedEx, is offering the Heatons three times the appraised value of their home, they say the offer isn’t close to what they’d need to sell. The appraisal conducted by SpaceX is several thousand dollars less than an appraisal the Heatons got through their bank five years ago, Terry said.

“I sent them an email the day after we got this letter, not being sarcastic or anything else,” he said. “I just told them the facts, that (their) appraisal is extremely low.”

SpaceX said the offers are not negotiable and gave the homeowners two weeks from the date of the letter to respond.

“It’s just big money bullying little people,” Terry said. “That’s really what it is.”

SpaceX Files for Permit to Fly Starship at Boca Chica

Super Heavy Starship (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for authority to fly its Starship vehicle to 22.5 km (14 miles/73,819 ft) from its test site at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.

The special temporary authority “is necessary to authorize Starship suborbital test vehicle communications for SpaceX Mission 1569 from the Boca Chica launch pad, and the experimental recovery following the suborbital launch.

“Recovery is limited to 2 functions: (1) prelaunch checkout test of the TC uplink from the ground station at Boca Chica (less than five minutes in duration) and (2) experimental uplink testing from the ground station at Boca Chica during descent,” the application stated.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will provide an update on plans for Starship and the Super Heavy rocket on Sept. 28 at the Boca Chica site.

SpaceX Aborts 150-meter Starhopper Flight

The clocked ticked down to zero, but when it came to go, SpaceX’s Starhopper vehicle failed to lift off from its launch pad at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.

After the last-second abort, Elon Musk’s rocket company scrubbed plans to fly the Raptor engine equipped vehicle to 150 meters (492 ft). SpaceX said it could try again as early as Tuesday.

It would have been the second flight test for Starhopper. The vehicle flew to about 20 meters altitude on July 25.

Starhopper is a test vehicle to develop technologies for SpaceX’s planned SuperHeavy Starship — a fully-reusable rocket and spacecraft system designed for human trips to the moon and Mars.

A second Starhopper is being built in Florida for testing there.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave permission for a flight to only 150 meters (492 ft) instead of the 200 meters (656 ft) that SpaceX requested. It also raised the liability insurance requirement for the flight from $30 million to $100 million.

Residents of nearby Boca Chica Village have been told to stay outside during the test in case an “over pressure event” (i.e., explosion) breaks windows in their homes.

SpaceX Pushes Back Starship Hopper Testing by Week

Starship hopper under construction at Boca Chica. (Credit: SpaceX)

The Brownsville Herald reports that SpaceX’s plan for hover tests of its Starship Hopper vehicle has been pushed back by a week.

The county had posted notice earlier this week that testing scheduled for late May was rescheduled to the week of June 3, but those plans are now on hold for another week.

According to a notice posted on the county’s website, State Highway 4 to BocaChicaBeach is scheduled to close from 2 to 8 p.m. on June 11 and/or in the alternative on June 12 and/or on the alternative on June 13.

The county has also established a hotline for road closures. The public can call (956) 548-9541 for information about the closures.











SpaceX Wears Out its Welcome in Boca Chica Village

Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor's Office)
Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor’s Office)

The residents of a small Texas village located less than two miles from SpaceX’s future launch site are not pleased with the company’s future plans.

People who live in Boca Chica Village, all 26 of them, knew Elon Musk’s SpaceX company would put the South Texas town on the map after it was selected last year as the world’s first commercial rocket-launch site. Now, many want SpaceX gone and their obscurity back.

The residents say SpaceX representatives told them recently they would be required to register with the county, wear badges and pass through checkpoints on launch days, which will occur about once a month beginning as soon as next year. During a 15- hour launch time frame, their movement around the village could be restricted. If they happen to be picking up groceries past a designated “point of no return,” forget about going home.

SpaceX’s proposed methods to enforce the safety rules — sweeping the beach with drones and video surveillance — aren’t helping matters. While the rules still might change, all this makes residents wish SpaceX would go away, with some even talking about acts of civil disobedience or maybe a lawsuit.

“I’m like, ‘Are you out of your mind?’” said Cheryl Stevens, 55, who settled in Boca Chica Village a decade ago in search of quiet, rustic beauty. “It’s like Nazi Germany.”











SpaceX’s Busy To-Do List for Rest of 2015

SpaceX vehicle integration building at Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)
SpaceX vehicle integration building at Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell was making the rounds last week in Washington, D.C., speaking before the Satellite 2015 conference and a House Armed Services subcommittee meeting. Much of the focus was on the latter, where Shotwell engaged in a she said-he said battle over launch costs with United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno.

More interesting were the updates Shotwell provided on SpaceX’s plans for 2015 and beyond. What emerged is just how crowded the company’s agenda is for the rest of the year. The table below provides a summary.

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SpaceX Breaks Ground on Launch Facility in Texas

Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor's Office)
Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor’s Office)

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Texas Governor’s Office PR) — Gov. Rick Perry on Monday helped break ground on the SpaceX Commercial Launch Facility located near Boca Chica Beach, which will launch commercial satellites into orbit.

“This announcement represents a huge step forward for our state and continues our nation’s proud legacy of scientific advancement,” Gov. Perry said. “It builds upon our pioneer heritage, our tradition of thinking bigger, dreaming bolder, and daring to do the impossible. SpaceX is the latest in a long line of forward-thinking companies that have made Texas home, and I couldn’t be prouder to help break ground on this revolutionary new facility.”

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SpaceX to Break Ground on Launch Center on Monday

Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.
Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

Received the following invitation from SpaceX this afternoon, which I’ve edited down.

Media are invited to attend SpaceX’s official groundbreaking ceremony for the world’s first private commercial orbital launch facility on Monday, September 22, 2014. The facility will be built near Boca Chica Beach, Texas and expected to be complete by 2016.

Following the groundbreaking ceremony in Boca Chica, media are also welcome to attend a reception in Brownsville honoring local community officials from across South Texas, whose support has made the construction of the launch facility possible.











FAA Approves SpaceX Launch Complex in Texas

Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.
Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved SpaceX’s plan to build a spaceport south of Brownsville, Texas, to launch Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and suborbital rockets.

In its record of decision, the FAA said that while the environmentally preferable alternative would be to reject the application and having nothing constructed in the beachfront area, the option is not in keeping with the agency’s purpose.

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