Featured Image Source: @LabPadre via YouTube & Twitter
SpaceX is ready to begin engine testing of the Super Heavy rocket prototype that will propel Starship to orbit this Summer. The stainless-steel Booster 7 was transported from the Starbase factory to the launch pad down State Highway 4 at Boca Chica Beach on June 23. For the first time SpaceX used the robotic launch tower arms to lift the gigantic rocket on the mount. Nicknamed ‘Mechazilla’ by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, the giant claw-like arms are designed to stack the 160-foot-tall Starship atop the 230-foot-tall Super Heavy rocket, as well as "catch" the vehicles after a spaceflight. It is the first time Mechazilla mounts a booster equipped with all 33 Raptors. NASASpaceflight and LabPadre photographers captured a timelapse video of the operation, linked below.
And being lowered. Chopsticks (and the Chopstick team) achieve another milestone! pic.twitter.com/Xx8ssIRZ4N— Chris Bergin - NSF (@NASASpaceflight) June 24, 2022
Super Heavy Booster 7 is on the orbital launch mount after being lifted by the chopsticks overnight. This was the first time the chopsticks have ever lifted a Super Heavy Booster.— Starship Gazer (@StarshipGazer) June 24, 2022
5:44 am 6/24/22https://t.co/lqMPEMdyvz pic.twitter.com/dsI0Tweh9w
The 400-foot-tall tower's catching mechanism will enable fast reusability. “Starship booster, largest flying object ever designed, will be caught out of sky by launch tower. Big step forward, as reflight can be done in under an hour,” said Musk. The Super Heavy booster will be caught with “load points just below the grid fins” and “shock absorption is built into tower arms. Since tower is ground side, it can use a lot more mass to arrest booster downward momentum,” he explained last year. However, Musk previously said they would not attempt to catch the booster with Mechazilla on the first orbital launch attempt because it is too risky. Booster 7 is expected to soft land in the Gulf of Mexico near Boca Chica Beach after it propels Starship SN24 to orbit.
Booster 7 was transported to the launch pad to begin its engine testing campaign ahead the orbital flight. It is equipped with 33 Raptor V2 engines that could undergo a static-fire test next week. "SpaceX has informed the U.S. Coast Guard that there will testing at their facility located south of Brownsville, TX, near Boca Chica Beach. During the hours of 10 a.m. through 10 p.m June 27, 2022 through June 30, 2022 each day, a hazard area will exist in vicinity of the SpaceX facility," says a Marine Safety Information Bulletin by the U.S. Coast Guard issued on June 24. "The area below [photo] represents the U.S. waters portion of the hazard area SpaceX identified as susceptible to potential hazards including blast pressure, debris, gaseous leaks, and fires during the tests. Mariners are advised to check Broadcast Notice to Mariners on VHF Channel 22A/157.100 MHz before entering that region and should avoid the area outlined below during the test period," the announcement states, pictured below.
Hot off the presses! MSIB just released for possible static fire testing during 27-30 Jun 2022! Testing window from 10a.m. - 10p.m. #BocaChica #Starship #WenStaticFire #StarshipFleet 🚀🔥 pic.twitter.com/fMqB0D8bA0— Boca Chica, Texas 🚀 (@VisitBocaChica) June 24, 2022
Today, local photographers shared video of what appears to be initial "igniter" testing on Booster 7 (linked below). Engineers are expected to static-fire Raptor V2 engines in a sequence to assess their performance next week. They will fuel the rocket with over 3,000 tons of cryogenic liquid methane and liquid oxygen, ignite some engines for a few seconds while the vehicle remains on the launch mount. SpaceX has never ignited over 6 engines simultaneously, it will be incredible to see over a dozen powerful engines ignite. Musk says each Raptor V2 is capable of generating 230 tons of thrust; all 33 engines will produce over 16 million pounds of thrust. The company is still pending approval to launch Starship to orbit, the company is waiting to receive a spaceflight license to launch from Boca Chica this Summer.
NASASpaceflight VIDEO: Starbase Launch Tower Robotic Arms Mount Booster 7
LabPadre VIDEO: SpaceX Starbase 24/7 Livestream
Image Source: @StarshipGazer via Twitter