SpaceX founder Elon Musk is hell-bent on landing the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024 and sending the first humans to Mars within this decade. His aerospace company runs around-the-clock operations to ensure the human species does not stay confined to Earth forever. “Optimism, pessimism, fuck that – we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I’m hell-bent on making it work,” Musk said during the company’s early days. “I was asked by a reporter if I was optimistic or pessimistic about SpaceX’s future. That was my answer.”
Raptors on Super Heavy pic.twitter.com/jJy1vftHNB— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 2, 2021
29 Raptor engines and 4 grid fins have been installed on Super Heavy ahead of first orbital flight pic.twitter.com/XHkCZ9VYK4— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 3, 2021
Chief Engineer Musk shared on Sunday evening that SpaceX started to work on installing Starship Super Heavy’s Raptor engines. As most of us slept in South Texas, they worked overnight to complete installing the rocket's 29 Raptor engines in less than 15 hours – an unprecedented speed! By Monday morning (August 2) Musk shared a photograph of the stainless-steel Booster 4 fitted with all 29 Raptors in a tight configuration across the booster’s 9-meter-diameter. The installation process is a challenging task, each Raptor engine has its own elaborate plumbing, sensors, and wire lines that have to be perfectly connected to ensure an optimal engine performance. The task was completed rapidly because SpaceX flew in over 500 employees from its headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to help Boca Chica teams increase the pace of progress. Local South Texas television reports state that hotels in the region are at ‘capacity’ due to the influx of SpaceX’s workforce.
Teams also installed grid fins to Booster 4. Grid fins are the waffle-like structures attached to the booster's top edge, as pictured below. They are used for guiding rockets at high speeds. Musk previously said that they will try to develop a system to catch the Super Heavy booster by the grid fins upon landing by using a mechanical arm connected to the launch tower.
At the unprecedented rate SpaceX is moving, we can expect them to transport the 70-meters-high Booster 4 from the assembly facility down Highway 4 to the launch pad as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday this week. Booster 4 is the first Super Heavy prototype that is equipped with 29 methane-fueled Raptors that will undergo pre-flight testing at the launch pad. It will be exciting to see the engines monstrous power once all are ignited at once. The company says that the Starship launch vehicle will be the most powerful rocket in the world.
Simultaneously, teams are also working on the assembly of Starship SN20 at the Starbase factory. The vehicle will be equipped with 6 Raptor engines, three vacuum-optimized for propulsion in space. These have a larger nozzle than the sea-level Raptors used for atmospheric flight. Starship SN20 will be launched to orbit atop Booster 4 from Boca Chica’s sandy beach, then it will reenter Earth’s hot atmosphere to cool off with a splashdown along the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. Space enthusiasts are eagerly waiting for SpaceX’s ambitious orbital test flight. Local residents captured footage of workers rapidly installing the vehicle’s black color heat tiles by hand, video clip shown below. These ceramic heat tiles are designed to withstand Earth’s hot atmosphere as Starship returns from space. The heat tiles can withstand temperatures over 1,650 Kelvin, equivalent to over 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The tiles are hexagonal because the shape provides no straight path for heat to accelerate through the gaps. This afternoon, teams are also working to install SN20's aerodynamic flaps which are covered in heat tiles, pictured below.
Second flap for S20 going up!! pic.twitter.com/OqcfHN2RrK— Austin DeSisto (@AustinDeSisto) August 2, 2021
I was asked by a reporter if I was optimistic or pessimistic about SpaceX’s future. That was my answer.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 2, 2021
Featured Image Source: SpaceX Founder Elon Musk
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.