SpaceX is working around-the-clock to prepare for the first orbital Starship flight test. It will be the first time the company launches the 394-foot-tall launch system comprised of the Super Heavy rocket and Starship spacecraft. The stainless-steel vehicles will soon undergo through a series of pre-flight tests meant to assess if all is ready for an orbital flight. During the debut orbital flight attempt, Super Heavy Booster 4 will propel Starship SN20 to orbit from the Starbase launch pad at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. Starship will continue its orbital flight above the Florida Straits, then reenter Earth’s atmosphere to splashdown off the northwest coast of Kauai, Hawaii, near a military base.
Teams are working to complete all the Ground Support Equipment (GSE) at the Orbital Launch Site (OLS) that is necessary for an orbital flight. They already completed the 400-foot-tall launch tower and have transported multiple GSE tanks that store propellant to the launch pad. SpaceX founder Elon Musk refers to the entire launch pad zone as ‘Stage Zero' [Stage 0]. He recently said that Stage Zero is much harder to build than a Starship launch vehicle and that he hopes Super Heavy does not blow up on the launch site during the first orbital attempt. “…For the first orbital launch our goal is to make it to orbit without blowing up,” he said, “And frankly, […] if the booster does its job and something goes wrong with the ship, I will still count that as great progress.”
“To be totally frank, if it takes off without blowing off the stand, Stage Zero, which is much harder to replace than the booster – that will be a victory. So, ‘please do not blow up on the stand,’” Musk said during an interview with Everyday Astronaut. ‘Stage Zero’ is includes all launch pad support structures, which include the launch tower, mount, propellant tanks, flame diverter system, among many other vital things surrounding the launch pad. The GSE propellant tank farm will be connected to propellant lines that lead to the launch mount and launch tower where the Super Heavy-Starship launch vehicle will liftoff from. This week, SpaceX performed a test of a stainless-steel GSE propellant tank prototype that was transported to the launch pad on August 23.
A new tank was rolled out and arrived at the launch site during today’s road closure. There’s no thrustpuck leading us to believe it’s a GSE tank, opposed to one that’d be used for pressure testing.— TankWatchers (@WatchersTank) August 23, 2021
📸@LabPadre #SpaceX @elonmusk pic.twitter.com/f0jZgP5R1H
On Wednesday evening, teams conducted a proof test of the GSE tank prototype. They filled the dome structure with sub-chilled liquid nitrogen to subject it to high pressure. Remote cameras by LabPadre and NASAspaceflight captured footage of the testing operation, GSE tank developed frost and started to vent which confirmed that SpaceX was conducting a cryogenic proof test, video below. The GSE tanks must be strong enough to store cryogenic propellants. Starship's Raptor engines are fueled by a combination of cryogenic liquid methane and liquid oxygen, that will be stored at extremely cold temperatures ahead of the launch vehicle(s) flight test.
The test GSE tank underwent testing last night.— Everything SpaceX (@spacex360) August 26, 2021
The tank was filled with liquid nitrogen and lots of venting and frost was evident. Everything appeared nominal.
📸 @BocaChicaGal / @NASASpaceflight https://t.co/HtxCaq8TdW pic.twitter.com/bbm7nw0Z4R
Woah. Extra venty. pic.twitter.com/ewXkgMiW1N— Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer) August 26, 2021
Featured Image Source: Left image by LabPadre Via YouTube / Right by Tesmanian.com