On January 18, SpaceX performed a cryogenic proof test of a fully-stacked Starship at Starbase in South Texas. Engineers are preparing prototypes - Starship SN24 and Super Heavy Booster 7 - for the first-ever orbital flight test. During the orbital flight, Booster 7 will propel SN24 to orbit with 33 powerful Raptor V2 engines. The booster will drop off Starship SN24 into the edge of space, which begins at the Karman Line at approximately 100 kilometers (km) above Earth’s surface. Booster 7 will return with an ocean landing in the Gulf of Mexico near Boca Chica Beach. SN24 will continue its voyage half-way around Earth to make a soft ocean landing off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, near a U.S. military base. The flight will enable engineers to practice the concept of operations and test the new spacecraft technologies. The data they gather from the flight will serve to speed up the rocket-ship’s development. SpaceX has not announced a specific date of when the orbital flight attempt will take place, just an approximate timeline. “We have a real shot at late February. March launch attempt appears highly likely,” said SpaceX founder Elon Musk on January 7.
Before Starship takes flight it must pass a series of tests to ensure it has what it takes to support the stresses of spaceflight. During the cryogenic (cryo) proof test on Wednesday, SpaceX engineers fueled the fully-stacked vehicle with subcooled liquid nitrogen to pressurize the stainless-steel tanks to test its overall structural integrity. Booster 7 must withstand Starship SN24’s mass when loaded with propellant. The test also serves to test the propellant loading infrastructure that is integrated to the orbital launch tower, referred to as ‘Quick Disconnect’ (QD) arms. According to NASASpaceflight on Twitter, this was the ‘second partial cryo test’ of the fully-stacked launch vehicle. They shared a video of the test; the stainless-steel structure has a frost layer indicating the cryogenic test operation, linked below.
Detanking, so this was similar to the previous cryo test (long window, so always possible they could load again - eyes on roadblock). Regardless, still one more step toward a WDR.— Chris Bergin - NSF (@NASASpaceflight) January 18, 2023
Also, Ship 25 could be closing in on its Static Fire test campaign in the not-too-distant future. pic.twitter.com/ezyYwvEhHQ
If this cryogenic proof test shows SN24 and Booster 7 are structurally sound, engineers will perform a Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) next which will simulate all steps to take for a launch. It will involve fueling Starship SN24 and Super Heavy Booster 7’s Raptor V2 engines with cryogenic liquid methane (CH4) and liquid oxygen (LOX). Booster 7 also is pending a static-fire test of all 33 Raptor V2 engines which will get the vehicle one step closer to lift off – if all goes smoothly. Starship/Super Heavy is destined to become the world’s most powerful operational rocket capable of producing over 17 million pounds of thrust. Each test brings SpaceX closer to returning NASA astronauts to the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program in 2025, and sending the first humans to Mars soon after. The company will also launch a group of dearMoon artists on a circumlunar voyage as soon as Starship is operational. Read more: NASA outlines how the SLS Orion & SpaceX Starship will land Artemis III astronauts on the Lunar South Pole》Author's note: Thanks for reading Tesmanian.com. If you have any story suggestions or feedback, feel free to Direct Message me on Twitter: Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo @JaneidyEve Or write your thoughts in the comment section below. Read my most recent stories here: Recent News Stories 《
Featured Image 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.