Photo credit: Jack Beyer / NASASpaceflight
|Fate:||Remains on a display stand at Boca Chica|
On 18 November 2020 the first parts for SN15 were first spotted in the construction yard and was the first in a new series of prototypes that would have improvements.
Following the destruction of SN11 during its test flight on 31 March, Elon Musk announced that SN15 would roll to the launch pad “in a few days”, and that it had hundreds of design improvements across structures, avionics, software and engine.
SN15 was moved from the Mid Bay to the High Bay on 31 March after its flaps were installed, and the nosecone section stacked separately, in preparation for it being mounted on the body of Starship. Stacking of SN15 was completed on 2 April.
Ahead of rollout on 4 April a thrust pack simulator had been installed on Suborbital Pad A, in order to test the updated design before the Raptor engines are fitted at a later date.
On 8 April SN15 left the High Bay and was rolled out to the launch area where it was mounted. SpaceX have fitted a Starlink dish to SN15 and filed a request to make use of it at altitudes of less than 12.5km for a maximum of 8 minutes.
A cryogenic pressure test was successfully passed on 12 April, with a second to test the header tanks conducted a day later on 13 April. It was also noted that while on the pad more TPS tiles were installed.
Three new raptor engines (SN54, SN61 and SN66) were delivered to launch site on 15 April ready to be installed. Installation began on 17 April when Raptor SN61 was observed being lifted into position. One Raptor engine (likely SN54) was seen being returned to the build site before being delivered again to SN15 on 18 April when it was installed.
The Raptor engines were tested for the first time during a static fire on 26 April which it passed, Elon later stating that they were preparing for a test launch later in the week. 29 April saw the FAA authorised the next launches of SN15, SN16 and SN17. After a lot of uncertainty around the launch date, the Flight Termination System was installed over the night of 29/30 April in preparation for a test flight on 30 April which ultimately was scrubbed.
The first flight of SN15 took place on 5 May. Launch occurred at 17:24 local time (22:24 UTC) with successful ignition and lift off. SN15 successfully ascended and reached an apogee of 10km before entering its belly flop dive. After descending it then performed a successful flip and landing burn resulting in a soft touchdown on the landing pad, marking the first successful landing of a Starship (SN10’s hard landing resulted in its destruction shortly after) since SN6. Elon Musk later tweeted out “Starship landing nominal!“, following up later with “Might try to refly SN15 soon“.
On 6 May preparations had started for moving SN15, while on 7 May the landing legs had been removed. Starting on 11 May, SpaceX began moving SN15 to Suborbital Pad B, in preparations for another test. After several days delay, SN15 was successfully placed onto Suborbital Launch Pad B on 14 May.
By 21 May the three Raptor engines that had powered SN15 through its first flight had been removed and were spotted being moved from the launch pad.
On 26 May SN15 was removed from Pad B and relocated back to the Production site. It’s future status is uncertain but it is assumed that it will be retired.
SN15 was officially retired on 31 May when it was mounted on a display stand at Boca Chica, becoming the first Starship prototype to have that honour. The previous surviving prototypes like SN5 and SN6 were scrapped while Starhopper remains at the launch site.
All dates & times are local unless otherwise indicated.