SpaceX tests pushed back

The reason SpaceX keeps postponing tests of its “Starhopper” Starship prototype at the company’s Boca Chica Beach launch site is due to engine issues, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Specifically, according to a June 23 tweet from Musk, a component known as the “oxygen turbine stator” failed in testing of the liquid oxygen and methane-powered Raptor engine used in two previous tests at Boca Chica in April. SpaceX’s engine testing facility is located in McGregor.

Musk tweeted that the problem appeared to be mechanical and not the result of “metal combustion failure,” but would require an update to the design update and replacement of some parts.

“Production is ramping exponentially, though,” he tweeted, “SN6 almost done. Aiming for an engine every 12 hours by end of year.”

“SN” stands for “serial number.” In Boca Chica tests so far a single Raptor engine has been used, with the Starhopper tethered to the ground. Two other Starship prototypes are under construction, one at Boca Chica and the other near Cape Canaveral, Fla., intended for use in orbital tests.

“Starship will do orbital launches from Boca Chica (near Brownsville) & Cape,” Musk tweeted on June 24.

The company is designing its 100-passenger, Starship/Super Heavy vehicle for trips to the Moon and Mars. Design for the Super Heavy rocket booster calls for 31 Raptor engines, while the Starship spacecraft would get six.

According to SpaceNews.com, at a conference in Indonesia on June 26, SpaceX Vice President of Commercial Sales Jonathan Hofeller announced that the company is planning its first commercial launch of Starship, probably to deploy satellites, for 2021.

Cameron County’s latest closure announcement for Boca Chica Beach and S.H. 4 from FM 1419 to Boca Chica Beach for SpaceX testing covers July 14-19. The primary closure dates are July 14 and 17, with alternate closure dates of July 15, 16, 18 and 19. The hours of closure for each day are 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. except for July 19, when the county authorizes closure between 6 a.m. and 12 p.m.