Featured Image Source: LabPadre via YouTube & Twitter
SpaceX already started to develop the gigantic Super Heavy rocket that will propel Starship to orbit. At Starbase in South Texas, engineers are developing a fully-reusable booster. SpaceX founder Elon Musk recently shared a photograph of the first Super Heavy prototype that will undergo testing at Boca Chica Beach, shown below. When its assembly is complete, it will be a 70-meter-tall (230-foot-tall) booster. The stainless-steel vehicle is under assembly inside a giant high-bay at the rocket factory. Musk said that “Booster 1 is a production pathfinder” and they are “figuring out how to build & transport 70 meter tall stage.” The next prototype in the series will be the one to perform a flight test at Boca Chica, “Booster 2 will fly,” he added. The next Starship that will conduct a high-altitude test flight, SN16, is also undergoing preparations inside the high-bay next to Booster 2.
Ship 16 & Booster 2, Starbase Highbay pic.twitter.com/IUuidOw9ym— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 28, 2021
On Tuesday afternoon, SpaceX kicked off the Starship Super Heavy booster’s test campaign with a proof test of a tank referred to as ‘BN2.1’. During the cryogenic proof test, the stainless-steel tank was subjected to extremely low temperatures as it was filled with liquid nitrogen. This test is conducted causes the tank to experience high-pressure to simulate the stress it would experience during a flight to space. The test helps engineers assess the tank’s structural strength and provides them with insight to know whether the tank’s construction technique and design needs improvement. Testing a smaller tank is better than risking an entire booster if they come across an issue. After finishing all tests with BN2.1, engineers can implement what they learned to prepare the Super Heavy Booster 2 prototype for testing.
Meanwhile, the Starbase facility continues to expand and the company is moving quickly to assemble the launch tower that will support the booster. Super Heavy must be capable of being rapidly reusable, for that purpose SpaceX will design a launch tower that could quickly ‘catch’ the booster as it returns from orbit with a propulsive descent. The final version of Super Heavy will be the most powerful rocket in the world, with over 30 methane-fueled Raptor engines it will generate over 16 million pounds of thrust – which is over twice the thrust of the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo missions to the lunar surface. Musk shared they plan to test “29 Raptors on [the] booster initially, rising to 32 later this year, along with thrust increase per engine [...]," he said. SpaceX aims to perform the first orbital flight test with the Starship Super Heavy duo this summer, no earlier than July 1st. If the company obtains regulatory approval, they could attempt to launch the vehicle from Starbase in Texas to orbit, then land it off the coast of Hawaii. You can watch SpaceX Starship development progress Live in the video below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
LabPadre 24/7 Livestream Of SpaceX’s Starbase Facility