On Tuesday, October 11, SpaceX stacked the stainless-steel prototypes that will soon perform the first-ever orbital flight test. The ~100-ton Starship SN24 vehicle was stacked atop Super Heavy Booster 7 with Machazilla - the launch tower's robotic arms. NASASpaceflight and LabPadre livestream cameras captured stunning videos of the Starbase launch tower's crab-like arms slowly carrying Starship SN24 up the 400-foot-tall launch tower, shown below. Fully-stacked, the giant vehicle stands 395 feet high at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. The stacking operation took approximately 1-hour. It marks the fourth time SpaceX stacks the two-stage rocket.
Lowering for mate. pic.twitter.com/IRHn8HK62P— Chris Bergin - NSF (@NASASpaceflight) October 12, 2022
SpaceX founder and Chief Engineer Elon Musk said that the debut orbital launch could happen as soon as next month. –"[...] November seems highly likely," he said, "We will have two boosters & ships ready for orbital flight by then, with full stack production at roughly one every two months," he shared via Twitter on September 21. Now that Starship SN24 is stacked atop Booster 7, the –"Next big test is probably full stack wet dress rehearsal, then 33 engine firing in a few weeks," said Musk.
Late next month maybe, but November seems highly likely. We will have two boosters & ships ready for orbital flight by then, with full stack production at roughly one every two months.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 21, 2022
SpaceX already conducted a series of pre-flight testing of SN24 and Booster 7 individually. In the past couple of months, both vehicles underwent cryogenic proof tests to assess structural integrity and also had their engines tested during multiple static-fire tests. Most recently, on September 19, SpaceX performed a seven engine static-fire test of Booster 7 which is equipped with 33 Raptor V2 engines that are fueled with a combination of cryogenic liquid methane (CH4) and liquid oxygen (LOX). Only 7 Raptor V2 engines out of 33 were ignited during the test. It marked the first time SpaceX ignited seven engines simultaneously. "Chamber pressure looked good on all 7 engines," said Musk soon after the test. During Booster 7's previous static-fire test on August 31st, only 3 engines were briefly ignited. The 230-foot-tall Super Heavy is set to become the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed. The 33 Raptor V2 engines are capable of generating over 17 million pounds of thrust at full throttle. Such an immense amount of force is required to propel the 165-foot tall Starship to Low Earth Orbit with around 100 tons of cargo.
7 engine static fire pic.twitter.com/sOm8Jx8rJq— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 19, 2022
The weeks ahead are expected to be exciting in terms of Starship development. The company aims to achieve launching Starship to orbit before this year comes to an end. During the orbital flight test, Booster 7 will propel Starship SN24 to orbit from the Starbase launch pad and SN24 will fly around Earth to land along the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. It is still unclear whether SpaceX will land Booster 7 at sea in the Gulf of Mexico or attempt to "catch" it with the launch tower's robotic arms to test the infrastructure. You can follow the company's progress at Starbase in the Livestream linked below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
VIDEO: LABPADRE STARBASE LIVESTREAM
Featured Images Source: SpaceX