SpaceX is moving at ‘Warp 9’ speed to develop its next-generation launch vehicle that will enable humans to become a multiplanetary species. The company flew in a workforce of over 500 employees from its headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to South Texas to help speed up the pace of progress at the Starbase facility. SpaceX founder and Chief Engineer Elon Musk has been working tirelessly alongside employees this past week to complete the assembly of the first spacecraft prototype that will be launched to orbit and returned to Earth.
Musk shared on Sunday evening that SpaceX started to work on installing Super Heavy’s Raptor engines and they completed the installation in less than 15-hours on Monday morning. By Tuesday, August 3, SpaceX transported the monstrous Super Heavy rocket test vehicle to the launch pad at Boca Chica Beach for pre-flight preparations. The 230-foot-tall stainless-steel rocket, identified as Booster 4, will propel Starship SN20 to orbit during the company’s debut orbital test flight this Summer. The flight could potentially take place this month if SpaceX receives all the necessary regulatory approvals and if the vehicle passes all pre-flight ground tests. The company is pending an environmental review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that will give them the green-light for launch.
Musk shared a stunning video of the giant Booster 4 being transported down Highway 4 on Tuesday, shown below. The rocket is equipped with 29 methane-burning Raptor engines that are capable of producing over 16 million tons of thrust! Once in operation, Super Heavy will have more thrust power than every operational rocket in history. Booster 4 will be placed on the orbital launch mount where it will undergo ground testing. The first pre-flight test is expected to be a proof test of the stainless-steel vehicle. To test Booster 4’s structural integrity, engineers will fill up the tanks with cryogenic liquid nitrogen to simulate the extreme pressures it will experience during an orbital flight. If this test goes well, engineers will then conduct a static-fire test of Super Heavy’s 29 Raptors. It is still unknown how many boosters will be test-fired at once as the vehicle remains grounded to the orbital mount.
The orbital flight test profile was outlined in a SpaceX filing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in which the company seeks an experimental authorization to operate Starlink antennas aboard Starship. During the orbital test flight, engineers plan to return Booster 4 from orbit to land it in the water around 30-kilometers offshore in Gulf of Mexico. It will return approximately 170 seconds after propelling Starship SN20 to orbit as SN20 continues a voyage across the Florida Straits to splashdown off the northwest coast of Kauai, Hawaii. The entire test flight will last roughly 90-minutes. It will provide engineers valuable insight into the launch system’s development.
SpaceX teams are working to complete the final assembly of Starship SN20 at the Starbase factory. The 160-feet-tall spacecraft is covered in black-color heat tiles, pictured below. The heat tiles are designed to withstand extremely hot temperatures of over 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit as the vehicle returns from orbit. In the weeks ahead, we will see SpaceX transport SN20 to the launch pad where it will undergo pre-flight tests, then it will be stacked atop Super Heavy Booster 4 at the orbital launch tower.
A TESMANIAN correspondent will attend the orbital flight test at Boca Chica, Texas, to bring the story to you. We appreciate your ongoing support! In the meantime, you can watch a Live 24/7 broadcast of SpaceX Starbase launch pad operations in the video below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
Launch profile is outlined in a SpaceX filing to the Federal Communications Commission, they plan to add Starlink antennas to Starship. Hopefully all goes according to plan, It will be useful for SpaceX to perform this test flight to further develop the launch system. #OccupyMars pic.twitter.com/17fPCCOLy6— Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo (@JaneidyEve) August 3, 2021
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Featured Image Source: SpaceX 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.