by Iqtidar Ali, writer, TeslaOracle.com
SpaceX Starship program is moving forward with the SN15 prototype. On April 13, Starship SN15 went through the cryogenic proof test (Check out the video here!).
The cryo-test ensures if a spaceship is able to withstand in-flight atmospheric pressures and extremely low temperatures. This is achieved by simulating the in-flight conditions by filling the Starship with liquid nitrogen that has a temperature of −196 °C [−320 °F].
SpaceX also used a set of hydraulic rams to simulate the forces of the Raptor engine firing.
After the unfortunate mid-air explosion of the SN11 last month, Elon Musk said that the SN15 prototype is going to hit the launch pad with hundreds of design improvements. One of these enhancements is physically visible on SN15, SpaceX has significantly increased the number of heat shield tiles on this Starship prototype.
Heat shields are seen on both the fwd and aft flaps of the SN15 prototype. SpaceX is most probably trying to fetch some good test data to measure their effectiveness with respect to increase in numbers or area of application.
The number of spaceship thermal protection system (TPS) tiles on the SN15 prototype is around ~829 which is more than double the 384 tiles installed on SN11.
If yesterday’s cryogenic test has been successful and only SpaceX knows that for sure, we might be closer to a static fire test soon after the Raptor engines are installed. SpaceX is also making continuous improvements to its Raptor engine prototypes along with the Starship ones.
“69th Raptor engine coming soon,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter earlier this morning. This Raptor SN69 engine might become part of the Starship SN15 high-altitude flight test.