We will soon see another gigantic stainless-steel Super Heavy rocket liftoff from Starbase at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared that he aims to perform the second Starship orbital flight attempt in “6 to 8 weeks,” he wrote via Twitter on June 13. Engineers have been working around-the-clock to repair the Starship launch pad which was damaged during the first fully-integrated test flight that took place on April 20. The sheer force of at least 30 out of 33 Raptor engines upon liftoff caused a massive crater underneath the launch mount, chunks of shattered concrete and sand soared through the air. SpaceX is now working to install a “massive water-cooled steel plate” under the launch mount to see if they can mitigate such damage. This will include the installation of a water flame diverter system to try to prevent fire from spreading outside SpaceX’s launch pad.
The spaceship did not reach orbit during the first launch attempt due to engine issues, so SpaceX Mission Control decided to trigger the Flight Termination System 4-minutes into the flight causing it to explode. The test provided engineers with vital insight and data collection that enables improvements for next launch attempt. Engineering teams at Starbase are preparing the next test prototypes known as Starship SN25 and Super Heavy Booster 9. Today, they performed a “Spin Prime” test on SN25 during which the spacecraft’s tanks were filled with cryogenic propellant to test the engine’s turbopumps without igniting the vehicle. In the coming days, we can expect to see them perform a static-fire test of Starship SN25’s six Raptors during which actual brief ignition of the engines will take place to assess performance; similar testing is also planned for Booster 9. NASASpaceflight shared a video clip of today’s testing operation, linked below.
Header Tanks venting. pic.twitter.com/efKMx7CSbo— Chris Bergin - NSF (@NASASpaceflight) June 14, 2023
During the upcoming second launch attempt to reach orbit, SpaceX will try to launch a fully integrated launch vehicle into an altitude of at least 100 kilometers which is where the edge of outer space begins. If Starship reaches orbital velocity, it would circle the planet and complete the flight test with a soft landing in the ocean along the coast of Hawaii. The timeline for this second test flight is uncertain, even if all pre-flight testing goes smoothly, SpaceX still depends on the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to grant a spaceflight license.
SpaceX continues to move forward with Starship’s development as it has multiple paying customers that booked a flight on the spacecraft. Among the customers is Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa who invited a group of civilians on a voyage around the Moon, including artist DJ Steve Aoki and science communicator Tim Dodd ‘Everyday Astronaut.’ Inspiration4 astronaut Shift4 Payments founder Jared Isaacman also purchased a Starship ride to test the technologies as part of the Polaris Program. SpaceX is also developing a lunar-optimized Starship Human Landing System (HLS) to return NASA astronauts to the Moon’s surface as part of the Artemis program which aims to build a permanent lunar base. Pressure certainly runs high at SpaceX, since they are working on a tight schedule to meet their contract deadlines. NASA aims to return humans to the Moon by 2025, that is just a couple years from now.
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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.