Featured Image Source: @LabPadre via YouTube & Twitter
The journey to Mars begins in the southernmost tip of Texas at the small Boca Chica Beach village where SpaceX is building their first interplanetary spaceport at the Starbase launch site. SpaceX founder Elon Musk calls the sandy region the ‘Gateway to Mars’ from where he envisions a fleet of hundreds of Starships blasting off to build the first settlement on the Martian surface.
The aerospace company is preparing to conduct the first orbital flight test of a Starship test vehicle that will enable engineers to speed up the spacecraft’s development. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is conducting an environmental assessment of the Starbase launch site that is set to be completed by February 28. When complete, SpaceX will apply for a flight license to launch the first Starship to orbit from Texas and land it off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.
Musk said the company plans to test at least a dozen ships this year. For the debut orbital flight Starship will be stacked atop the Super Heavy rocket that will propel it to orbit with a custom-built launch tower that will stack the ship atop the rocket ahead of lift off. It will be the first time SpaceX launches a Super Heavy prototype and the first time it utilizes the launch tower to support the flight test. SpaceX is testing the launch tower’s mechanisms. Nicknamed “Mechazilla”, the launch tower is designed to stack and ‘catch’ the vehicles after every mission. Last week, engineers tested the launch tower’s robotic arm movements. The arms look like lobster hands that will grab the stainless-steel vehicles as each descend from space.
On Wednesday, January 12, SpaceX tested Mechazilla’s robotic arm strength with water bag mass simulators. The giant water bags were attached to each clasp, the water bags likely weigh over 100 tons to simulate the mass of the vehicles. The dry mass of Starship is around 85 to 120 tons and Super Heavy dry mass is over 200 tons. With propellant the rocket-ships combined overall mass could surpass 4,800 tons at liftoff. Boca Chica residents captured video of SpaceX’s launch tower undergoing strength testing with the giant water bags, shown below. You can watch SpaceX Starbase operations Live 24/7 in the video below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
Mass Simulator bags are now full of water on one side of the Chopsticks. Likely calibrating them, ahead of another test lift, this time with all this extra mass.— Chris Bergin - NSF (@NASASpaceflight) January 12, 2022
Mary (@BocaChicaGal) views:https://t.co/APLl78W8fn pic.twitter.com/Tk93KrhXnV
Water bag mass simulators. | Source: LabPadre via YouTube & Twitter
VIDEO: LABPADRE STARBASE LIVESTREAM