After SN3 suffered a testing anomaly a week ago, SpaceX immediately began preparing the next iteration of Starship, SN4. In just over a week, the SpaceX Boca Chica facility fully stacked the rings for the propellant section of SN4, while SN3’s nose cone remains sitting on the facility grounds, which may or may not be installed on SN4, it has yet to be confirmed. The rapid progress SpaceX is making with their Starship development makes Musk’s goal of producing one Starship per week very achievable.
SpaceX enthusiasts spotted multiple heat shield tiles bolted onto the hull of the rocket. If SN4 takes off, the heatshield will undergo extensive thermal and acoustic tests. This would be similar to the heat shield tests SpaceX conducted when Starhopper took its flight in August.
Starship SN4’s propellant section inside the vehicle assembly building with heat shield tiles installed on the hull.
— Mary (@BocaChicaGal) August 15, 2019
In a tweetstorm from Musk on April 15, the CEO revealed that the flaps and aero actuators of Starship are in the process of a mass reduction and simplicity redesign. However, he mentioned no aero surfaces will be installed on SN4, but “SN5 or SN6 will get flaps.”
Flaps, actuator & static aero are undergoing redesign for mass reduction & simplicity
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 17, 2020
In other Starship news, the raptor engine production is progressing as fast as Starship itself. SpaceX is currently on SN26 of their raptor iteration. This information comes two weeks after Musk released a photo of three raptor engines that were supposedly meant to be installed on SN3 before its anomaly. The raptor engines in the image below will likely be fitted onto SN4 if it succeeds in its pressure testing. It is also interesting to note that a Super Heavy booster would require 37 raptor engines. For SpaceX to meet Musk’s goal of producing one Starship per week, SpaceX must increase their rate of raptor engine production even faster than it already is.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 16, 2020
SpaceX enthusiasts could expect to see testing of SN4 as early as next week. Cameron County recently added road closure dates for pressure testing and a potential short flight. The dates currently issued are April 20, April 23, and April 26. With backup dates of April 27 and April 28, respectively.