SpaceX is at the forefront of its Starship spacecraft development program, but according to CEO Elon Musk, he already expects to repeat his latest success with an unplanned experiment for early reuse. Earlier this week, SpaceX took off with SN15 (ie the 15th prototype) of its Starship from its development site near Brownsville, Texas, and managed to upload it upright for the first time. Now Musk says they can fly the same prototype for the second time, the first for the test and the Starship development effort.
Wednesday’s successful launch and landing involved an ascent of about 30,000 feet, where the 150-foot spacecraft overturned on its “belly” and then descended back to Earth, returned vertically and launched its engines to slow its descent and to touch softly standing upright. This atmospheric testing is a key step designed to help prove the technologies and systems that will later help Starship return to Earth after its orbital launches. Starship̵
The second test flight of the SN15 is an interesting option among the prototype options. SpaceX will obviously conduct a number of other checks and collect as much data as possible from the vehicle, in addition to what it has collected from the on-board sensors, but the vessel options are then basically stress testing to failure, or dismantling it and you study the pieces. A second flight attempt is an interesting additional option that can provide SpaceX with very invaluable data on the planned reuse of the production version of Starship.
Whether or not SpaceX actually flies over the SN15 is still in the air, but if it’s ultimately technically possible, it looks like a great training opportunity for SpaceX that can help quickly track the overall development program.