SpaceX resumes testing

Current round will not include hops or launches

The prototype Starship Hopper sits at the launch pad Monday as loud sounds echoed from the facility and vapors rose up from lines connecting to the test vehicle at the SpaceX facility at Boca Chica Beach, east of Brownsville. (Ryan Henry/The Brownsville Herald)

Cameron County has announced several planned closure dates for SpaceX testing of the Starship Mk1 prototype at the company’s Boca Chica Beach facility between today and Nov. 12.

Today’s closure was for one hour only, from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., during which S.H. 4 was to be closed near the launch/test site though the beach was to remain open. The next scheduled primary closure date is Nov. 2 from noon to 8 p.m., with Nov. 3-4 from noon to 8 p.m. listed as backup days.

Those dates will entail closing of the beach as well as S.H. 4 east of Eichorn Boulevard, the easternmost access road to Boca Chica Village.

Alternate days are included because of the difficulty of predicting how quickly testing will proceed. The next scheduled primary closure is Nov. 7 from noon to 8 p.m., with alternate dates of Nov. 8 and Nov. 12, the same hours applying. SpaceX describes the upcoming activity as “routine system testing.”

No “hops” or launches will take place as part of the current round of testing, though the testing is in preparation for an eventual flight of the Mk1 prototype, which was built at SpaceX’s Boca Chica yard over the last several months.

In a Sept. 28 presentation by SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk at Boca Chica, during which he discussed progress of the Starship program, Musk estimated that the three-engined, 200-ton Mk1 would be ready for its first launch inside two months.

“This thing is going to take off, fly to 65,000 feet — about 20 kilometers — and come back and land,” he said during the presentation. “It’s really going to be pretty epic to see that thing take off and come back.”

On Aug. 27, SpaceX’s stubby, single-engined Starhopper prototype — now retired — flew to an altitude of 500 feet and touched down again in a controlled landing. The Mk2 prototype is under construction in Florida near Cape Canaveral, and SpaceX plans to begin building the six-engined Mk3 at Boca Chica in the near future.

Musk’s goal is for the production version of Starship to carry humans to the Moon and Mars, and said flights with people aboard could happen as early as next year.

On Oct. 22, speaking at the 70th International Astronautical Conference in Washington D.C., SpaceX President and Chief Operations Officer Gwynne Shotwell said the company hopes to take a Starship into orbit within a year and to the Moon soon thereafter.

“We definitely want to land it on the Moon before 2022,” she said. “We want to basically stage cargo there to make sure that there’s resources for the folks that ultimately land on the moon by 2024, if things go well.”

The hotline for SpaceX-related closures is (956) 548-9541, or visit www.co.cameron.tx.us.

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com