SpaceX publishes a recap video of their SN8 doing its jump test!

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To commemorate their greatest achievement to date with the Vessel, SpaceX has released a recap video of the SN8 high-altitude flight. This was the 12.5 km jump test that took place on December 9, 2020, which saw the SN8 prototype climb to an altitude of 12.5 km (7.8 mi), perform a “belly- flop ”and go back to the launch pad. Although it didn’t quite hold the landing, the test was a major milestone in the development of the Spatialship.

The flight test came after several static fire tests were conducted with previous prototypes (the SN1 to SN5) and a series of 150 meter (~ 500 feet) jump tests with the SN5 and SN6. On October 20, 2020, another successful static fire test was performed with the eighth prototype (SN8) using three Raptor engines. With the engines and design validated, the company prepared for its first high altitude test in December.

The two-minute-twenty-second video captures the highlights of the test by merging the footage from the many different cameras that were recording that day. This included a series of external cams (including a drone cam that follows the SN8 all the way up) inside the engine bay, one on the airstrip, and cams mounted on the fuselage.

It begins by showing engine ignition and ascent, with all three Ratpor engines producing a trail of orange-blue flame – which is the result of the combustion of its liquid methane and liquid oxygen (LOX) fuel. This is followed by the engine shutdown, where all three Raptor engines disengage (one at a time) as the SN8 nears its 12.5km peak.

At idle, we then see the SN8 turn sideways and watch its ailerons adjust for the “belly-flop” maneuver. This part of the test aimed to validate the aerodynamic surfaces of the prototype, which the Spatialship will rely on to maneuver and lose speed while performing atmospheric reentry. Descent is captured from multiple angles using the drone cam and fuselage cam.

Next is the “flip manuever”, where two of the Raptors reignite and the gimbal in order to bring the tail to land. This is shown both from the side (drone cam) and from the ground. The engines ignite for landing, but fail to slow the SN8 down enough to make a soft landing. Touch it down and Unscheduled Quick Disassembly (RUD) – aka. explosion – ensue.

The ascent of the SN8, showing the three Raptor engines on fire. Credit: SpaceX

This was due to a pressure issue in the fuel line, which ground crews quickly identified once the test was complete. Soon after, Musk took to Twitter to share what they had learned:

“The fuel manifold tank pressure was low during the landing combustion resulting in high touchdown speed and RUD, but we got all the data we needed! Congratulations to the SpaceX team, yeah !! “

Despite the fiery ending, all of the key systems and surfaces involved have been validated. These included the climb, shifting from tail to head fuel tanks (once SN8 hit its peak), and precision flap maneuvering that allowed for controlled descent. Meanwhile, the crews got all the data they needed on the issue that prevented a smooth touchdown and will use it to inform the next round of testing.

The video then ends with the caption reiterating the success of this very first high altitude flight test:

“SN8 DEMONSTRATED A FIRST CONTROLLED AERODYNAMIC DESCENT AND LANDING MANEUVER. TOGETHER THIS WILL ALLOW THE LANDING WHERE NO TRACK EXISTS INCLUDING THE MOON, MARCH AND BEYOND.

“NEXT: SN9.”

SN8 begins its “belly-flop” maneuver (flip). Credit: SpaceX

Speaking of which, everything indicates that Musk plans to perform a jump test with the SN9 and others in the coming weeks. These include Airmen Notices (NOTAMs) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the airspace around Brownsville, Texas, and Route Closure Advisories issued for Cameron Country around the test site. by Boca Chica.

These have since been extended, with new NOTAMs issued for next Wednesday and Thursday (January 13 and 14) from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time (CST) – or 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST; 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT. Likewise, new road closures have been announced for State Highway 4 and Boca Chica Beech in Cameron Country from Monday to Wednesday (January 11 to January 13).

SN9 has since been deployed to the landing pad and conducted its first static fire test earlier this week (Wednesday, January 6). Unfortunately, the test was halted after a very brief trigger, and another is likely to occur next week before any jump tests are attempted. Meanwhile, the SN10 has been stacked and integrated inside the High Bay and will be ready for deployment as soon as the SN9 has been put to the test.

The SN11 and SN12 are also being assembled inside the middle bay of the facility, with the SN11 nearing completion and just needing its nose. Musk also hinted that he and his crews at the Boca Chica plant would simultaneously test the SN9 and SN10 (and subsequent prototypes). It was in response to a tweet by RGV Aerial photography (@RGVaerialphotos), which runs weekly flyovers to take photos of the Boca Chica facility.

The image in the tweet shows the SN9 on the landing pad, with a previous image of the SN8 added (using Photoshop) on the adjacent platform. The image is captioned with a question for Musk: “With SN10 almost complete and repairs underway on the airstrip, do you think this is something we’ll see in the next few weeks?” To this, Musk tweeted a response from “Yes. »

2021 is going to be an exciting time for SpaceX, commercial space and space exploration in general! If the year has already seen its share of bad news, it seems that there are some serious lights on the horizon!

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