SpaceX Starbase teams are working hard in pursuit of another orbital launch attempt. On Thursday, July 20, they transported the next prototype of its colossal Starship Super Heavy booster, known as Booster 9, to the launch pad at its Starbase facility in South Texas. This marks the first time a booster has returned to the orbital launch mount at Starbase since Starship's first fully-integrated flight on April 20.
SpaceX has been diligently working on repairing and upgrading the launch pad after the last launch caused damage under the mount’s concrete. Engineers worked to design and install a steel plate water deluge system designed to protect the pad during liftoff. The water deluge system was successfully tested on July 16, as previously reported by TESMANIAN. Read more: SpaceX tests Starship orbital launch mount's newly installed steel water deluge system for the first time [VIDEO]
Starship Super Heavy Booster 9 transported to the orbital launch pad at Starbase for testing ahead of flight pic.twitter.com/fF6U13thzs— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 20, 2023
Booster 9 is now on the orbital launch mount, where it will undergo a critical static-fire test of its 33 Raptor V2 engines. During the test, engineers perform several critical tasks to ensure the engine's readiness and overall system performance. The booster will be fueled with liquid propellant, a combination of liquid oxygen (LOX) as the oxidizer and liquid methane (CH4) as the fuel for the Raptor engines. Engineers meticulously handle the propellant loading process to avoid any leaks or potential hazards. If they conduct a full-duration static-fire, the vehicle remains grounded while the Raptors fire for several seconds or minutes, depending on the specific test objectives. Engineers collect data on engine performance, including thrust, chamber pressure, and temperature readings. This test will validate the repairs and upgrades made to Starship's launch pad but is also a pivotal milestone in the preparation for the second flight of the world's most powerful rocket.
Booster 9 on the pad pic.twitter.com/8ZBCr1J21T— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 21, 2023
This week, Starbase engineers performed a cryogenic proof test of Booster 10 – which is the next prototype that could take flight after Booster 9. The booster also serves as a backup in case Booster 9 does not pass all testing, then engineers already have Booster 10 to replace it in order to speed up the rocket’s development. SpaceX founder Elon Musk also tweeted a photograph of the Starship SN25 prototype that will be propelled to orbit during the upcoming flight test, pictured below. Starship SN25 has already undergone some major pre-flight testing in the last couple months, including a static-fire test of its six Raptor V2 engines last month.
Next Starship prototype pic.twitter.com/l2BXNobgJk— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 21, 2023
Despite the progress made, the exact timeframe for the orbital flight attempt remains uncertain. It all depends on whether testing to goes as planned and SpaceX obtaining regulatory approval to perform the launch before this year ends. The company faces regulatory challenges, with a coalition of environmental groups suing the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over concerns about the potential impact of Starship launches on the South Texas ecosystem. Assuming that testing proceeds smoothly and that the lawsuit does not affect the launch timeline, then we will see the next fully-integrated test before the year ends. The aerospace company is determined to advance space exploration and is taking necessary steps to ensure their testing operations are all completed in a safe manner. The Starship launch system is designed to return NASA Artemis astronauts to the lunar surface by 2025 and transport the first humans to Mars soon after. SpaceX is currently the only American aerospace company that is capable of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station with its Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft. The United States has human spaceflight capabilities thanks to SpaceX, Starship aims to increase these capabilities on a larger scale.
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Featured Images Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
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.