SpaceX will significantly expand its Starship development program in the new year in several ways. SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk announced on Twitter Thursday that the company will attempt to use the two launch pads at its development facility in Boca Chica, Texas, with prototype rockets deployed on each, and begin flight tests on its Super Heavy Booster (starting with “hops” at a low level) will be available in just a few months.
SpaceX recently installed its Starship SN9 prototype (ninth in the current series) on Pad B at its test facility in Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. The SN9 will next be subjected to active testing after SpaceX successfully flown its predecessor, the SN8, to an altitude of around 40,000 feet and then performed a crucial maneuver for the belly flop that will help control the landing of the production version. SN8 was destroyed when it touched down harder than expected, but SpaceX still hit all test targets on the flight – and more.
The SN9 will now undergo ground tests before hopefully a flight test will be carried out later. This gives the team even more valuable data that can be used for further testing – with the ultimate goal of reaching orbit with a Starship prototype. Musk's tweet that two prototypes will stand side by side on Pad A and Pad B at the Boca Chica site could suggest that the pace of these test flights may be accelerating to match the fast clip that SpaceX is using to create new iterations of missiles.
The news that Super Heavy could soon be tested is also cause for excitement around 2021 for SpaceX and Starship. Super Heavy is the booster that SpaceX will eventually use to fly the spaceship for orbital launches and eventually launch it into space – for destinations like Mars. Super Heavy will be around 240 feet tall and contain 28 Raptor engines to give it the lift capacity needed to break Earth's gravity when stacked with a cargo-laden spaceship.