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Before S20, all of the SpaceX prototypes were called SN (Serial number) and then just a number. For example, the most know one was SN15 which successfully touched down after flying up to 10 km. Following that S16, S17, S18 & S19 were all either scrapped or cancelled. From then on they were all called S (ship) and then a number with Ship 20 being the first with such a name. What made SpaceX change the names from SN .. to just S ..? Was it that they wanted to show that these were now orbital ships and not just suborbital test prototypes or was there a different reason why?

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  • $\begingroup$ I remember when they moved from the futuristic sounding MK1, MK2 names to SN, which seemed like somewhat antiseptic terminology. Maybe they feel that as operational use gets closer it's time to get back to a more marketing image type of terminology. I also wonder if they are just picking up on the terminology used in the space enthusiast community. "Starship" was always a source of confusion and eventually people started to use the term ship to refer to the second stage, but I don't know if that originated with SpaceX or with SpaceX fans. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 30 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ It's unlikely anyone can give a good answer. SpaceX's naming conventions are haphazard at best, and on the whims of an oddball company owner. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Mar 30 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Hobbes - just because someone names their son X AE A-XII and their daughter Exa Dark Siderael, does that really make them an oddball? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 30 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ Using a serial number when you only have one type of vehicle makes sense, when you add in boosters though it makes more sense just to call them ships and boosters $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 31 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ They probably dropped the "N" because Elon felt that the best letter in the acronym was no letter in the acronym. $\endgroup$
    – phil1008
    Commented Apr 1 at 6:11

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They moved to calling the upper stage "Ship" and thus "S" and the first stage "Booster" and thus "B".

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