Featured Image Source: Tesmanian.com
SpaceX aims to launch the first Starship to orbit this year. The company is rapidly building its first Super Heavy-class launch tower to support an ambitious orbital flight test in South Texas. According to a filing with the U.S. Federal Communication’s Commission (FCC), SpaceX plans to fly Starship from Boca Chica Beach to the coast of Hawaii during the first orbital flight! “The Starship Orbital test flight will originate from Starbase, TX. The Booster stage will separate approximately 170 seconds into flight. The Booster will then perform a partial return and land in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 20 miles from the shore,” SpaceX told the FCC in the document, “The Orbital Starship will continue on flying between the Florida Straits. It will achieve orbit until performing a powered, targeted landing approximately 100km (~62 miles) off the northwest coast of Kauai [Hawaii] in a soft ocean landing.” The company already started to build a 400-foot-tall orbital launch tower to support the launch and stacking operation of Starship atop the giant Super Heavy booster, once stacked the vehicle will be 394-feet-tall.
🚨TOWER SECTION 5 STACKING COMPLETE!— TankWatchers (@WatchersTank) June 16, 2021
The orbital tower got another section today, SpaceX successfully stacked the 5th section that was already waiting at the launch site, once completed this tower will be 469 feet high (143mt).
📸@obetraveller #SpaceX @elonmusk pic.twitter.com/6hswr4AvLY
To prepare for the debut orbital flight attempt, SpaceX is testing prototypes of the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket booster. This past week, the company moved the Starship SN16 prototype from the assembly site to an area nicknamed the ‘rocket garden’, where Starship SN15, was moved to be on display after its high-altitude test. Space enthusiasts started to speculate on social media that it meant SN16 would be retired without ever flying. On Thursday, SpaceX founder Elon Musk put speculation to rest when he shared that SpaceX “might use SN16 on a hypersonic flight test,” he wrote via Twitter in response to an article speculating about SN16’s retirement. Launching Starship SN16 on a hypersonic test flight would prepare SpaceX for an orbital flight by simulating the kind of speeds the spacecraft will experience as it lifts off to fly around Earth.
We might use SN16 on a hypersonic flight test— Elon Musk, the 2nd (@elonmusk) June 17, 2021
Musk also shared a photograph of the two stainless-steel Starship vehicles side-by-side –“Real pic of 2 ships next to Starbase Tiki Bar on right,” he said. The ‘Tiki Bar’ is a SpaceX restaurant for employees that looks like a triangle-shaped house with an orange roof, pictured below.
Real pic of 2 ships next to Starbase Tiki Bar on right https://t.co/E4awziEdDQ— Elon Musk, the 2nd (@elonmusk) June 17, 2021
This afternoon, SpaceX performed the second cryogenic proof test of a Super Heavy booster test tank identified as ‘BN2.1’. During a proof test, the stainless-steel tank is filled with sub-chilled liquid nitrogen to pressurize the structure. The test is conducted to assess whether the structure can withstand the kind of pressure it will experience during an orbital flight (photo below).
🚨BN2.1 TEST TANK MAJOR VENTS— TankWatchers (@WatchersTank) June 17, 2021
SpaceX is proceeding with testing on BN2.1, and just moments ago we saw two large vents! These weren’t “pops” but we could see a pressure test to failure later on.
📸@LabPadre#SpaceX @elonmusk pic.twitter.com/F44yF5HfUf
Featured Image Source: Tesmanian.com / Evelyn J. Arevalo
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.