SpaceX Transports Starship Back To The Assembly Site To Complete Final Details Ahead Of Pre-Flight Tests

SpaceX Transports Starship Back To The Assembly Site To Complete Final Details Ahead Of Pre-Flight Tests

SpaceX stacked the world’s tallest rocket at Starbase last week on August 6. The 394-foot-tall vehicle is comprised of two sections – Starship SN20 and Super Heavy Booster 4; It is taller than the Statue of Liberty. SpaceX is preparing the vehicle to perform the first orbital flight test during which Booster 4 will propel the Starship SN20 spacecraft to orbit from South Texas and land it in the ocean off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.

In a recent interview with science communicator Tim Dodd, Everyday Astronaut on YouTube, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said they do not plan to recover Starship SN20 during the first orbital flight. “…For the first orbital launch our goal is to make it to orbit without blowing up,” Musk told Dodd, “And frankly, […] if the booster does its job and something goes wrong with the ship, I will still count that as great progress,” he said. “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 added. He explained that ‘Stage Zero’ is the launch pad support structures, which include the launch tower, mount, propellant tanks, flame diverter system, among many other things surrounding the launch pad. Musk said Stage Zero is much harder to build than a ship and booster.

Image Source: SpaceX

Before attempting the orbital flight, engineers will conduct a series of ground tests to ensure the launch system is ready. The stacking operation was part of a fit test, Starship SN20 was transported to the launch pad last Friday. Musk said that they will finish installing Thermal Protection System (TPS) heat tiles to SN20 at the assembly facility, located less than 5-miles down the road from the launch pad. He expects the ships to be ready to begin ground tests in approximately ‘2 weeks’. They will finish preparing the site’s ‘ground propellant storage tanks’ as well as work on the quick disconnect tower arm for Starship, also add thermal protection to the booster engines


Teams transported the gigantic Super Heavy Booster 4 to the assembly site this week to complete final details ahead of pre-flight tests. “Booster & Ship will return to orbital launch pad on Monday (winds allowing). Just finishing off some small plumbing & wiring, which is easier in high bay,” Musk wrote via Twitter on Wednesday, August 11. Boca Chica photographers captured a video of the stainless-steel booster being rolled down Highway 4, shown below. The Super Heavy booster is equipped with 29 methane-burning Raptor engines that will turn it into the most powerful rocket in the world. 

SpaceX started to remove Starship and Super Heavy’s Raptor engines inside the high bay at the assembly factory. As of last night, SpaceX has removed around 12 Raptors out of 29 - according to local residents who have been photographing the company’s progress. Once ready, the vehicles will be transported to the launch pad again to initiate their separate test campaigns. Each vehicle will undergo cryogenic proof testing to assess their strength. If all goes well, SpaceX will reinstall the engines to perform static-fire tests in the coming weeks. 


Featured Image Source: SpaceX

About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn 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.

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