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Musk: The fifth high-altitude test flight of the interplanetary spacecraft prototype is scheduled for next week

According to news on April 16, local time on Thursday, US space exploration technology company SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (Elon Musk) said that it is scheduled to conduct the fifth high-altitude test flight of the interstellar spacecraft prototype next week.

Musk said on Twitter that SpaceX's goal is to launch the interplanetary spacecraft prototype SN15 as early as next week to continue the monthly test rhythm. It is reported that SpaceX plans to close the road on April 19 (Monday) Eastern Time, which is likely to be its first static ignition test of the interplanetary spacecraft prototype SN15. The installation of the three Raptor engines may begin at any time within the next three days, and this process usually takes several hours.


After learning from the failed landings of the interstellar spacecraft prototypes SN8, SN9, SN10 and SN11, the SN15 high-altitude test flight can be said to be SpaceX's most likely successful test so far. This is largely due to the company's "hundreds of improvements" to the SN15, many of which are expected to solve the problems that caused the first four test failures.

Earlier this week, SN15 appeared to have completed the main cryogenic pressure test and withstood the (simulated) thermal stress of the cryogenic propellant, the tank pressure required for flight, and the thrust of the three Raptor engines.

On Wednesday, SpaceX dismantled the steel structure equipped with hydraulic rams (used to simulate the thrust of the Raptor engine) and conducted a similar low-temperature pressure test that night. However, the second round of testing did not test the main tank of SN15, but focused on the top tank of the interplanetary spacecraft, where the propellant used for landing was stored. The results of these two tests are not clear, but the removal of the steel structure shows that the main low-temperature pressure test has been successful enough and does not need to be repeated.

These tests seem to have become routine, and there is only one major hurdle to overcome before SN15 launches next week. Since it was the first prototype since SN8 to incorporate hydraulic ram thrust ice tray testing into low-temperature pressure testing, SpaceX sent it to the launch pad without installing a Raptor engine. Assuming that SpaceX wants to test the flight as soon as possible, the company now has about three and a half days to install three Raptor engines.

This shouldn't be a problem, although Musk said that the SN15 will be the first prototype of an interplanetary spacecraft to fly with an upgraded version of the Raptor engine. Because these upgrades are very important, the SN15 engine installation process may be longer than usual, because this is the first time that engine technicians and engineers have installed it on an interstellar spacecraft prototype.

If SpaceX can complete these preparations before Sunday, SN15 is likely to try a static ignition test on April 19. Historically, SpaceX has never tested an interplanetary spacecraft within six days of the static ignition test of the three engines, which means that Monday’s successful test is far from a guarantee that SN15, SpaceX, or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will be able to do it next week. Ready for the test flight.

Nevertheless, given that SN11 was indeed launched after four days of static ignition test of a Raptor engine, SN9 also tried to launch three days after static ignition test of three engines, so it is not impossible for SN15 to launch within the expected time. (Little)

Source: NetEase Technology Report, translated by Google Translate

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