According to Teslarati, the CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk said that the company is “aiming to launch” its fifth Starship on a high-altitude test flight as early as next week, maintaining their schedule of at least one launch a month.
The Starship SN15 has arguably the best chance of success yet, due to the data collected from the failures of its predecessors Starship prototypes SN8, SN9, SN10 and SN11. The company says that a “hundreds of improvements” were made on Starship SN15, many of which will hopefully avoid the problems that ultimately destroyed the previous Starship prototypes.
No testing windows were left active as of April 15th, SpaceX has canceled road closures on Thursday and Friday, an exceedingly rare occurrence in the launch site at Boca Chica, Texas. At the start of this week, Starship SN15 has completed several tests: standing up to the thermal stresses of (simulated) cryogenic propellant, cryogenic proof and thrust puck stress tests, the thrust of the three Raptor engines and the tank pressures required for flight (>6 bar or 90 psi).
SpaceX performed a cryogenic proof test on Wednesday, and also removed a steel structure fitted with hydraulic rams, used to simulate Raptor engines thrust. A test of the tanks was made, but this time, instead of focusing on the main tanks meant for lift off, SN15’s secondary header tanks meant to store propellant specifically for landing, were tested. The removal of steel ram structure suggest that the main cryogenic proof test was successful so it doesn’t need to be repeated, even though the results of both tests are unclear.
Starship SN15 has just one or two major obstacles on the way to its test flight next week, given that this week’s tests seem to be successful. This was the prototype to incorporate hydraulic ram thrust puck testing into its cryo proof since SN8, so SN15 did not roll to the launch pad with the Raptor engines already installed.