On July 24, SpaceX shared it completed “propellant load tests” of two Starship Super Heavy rocket prototypes, identified as Booster 9 and Booster 10. The rockets are undergoing pre-flight testing to attempt to propel Starship to orbit sometime this year during the second ever fully-integrated test flight. The booster is equipped with 33 Raptor V2 engines which are fueled by a combination of cryogenic liquid methane (CH4) and liquid oxygen (LOX), also known as ‘Methalox.’
A "propellant load test" is a crucial step in the development and testing process of the stainless-steel rocket. During this test, the rocket's tanks were filled with the propellants that it will use during its flight. The purpose of the propellant load test is to verify and validate the performance and integrity of the rocket's propellant system. It helps to ensure that the tanks, valves, pumps, and other components involved in the propellant handling process function correctly and can handle the extreme conditions encountered during liftoff and flight.
By loading the propellants into the rocket and simulating the conditions of an actual launch, SpaceX can assess various factors, including:
- Propellant loading procedure: Checking that the propellants can be safely and efficiently loaded into the rocket without any leaks or other issues.
- Pressure and temperature control: Ensuring that the propellants remain within the required pressure and temperature ranges throughout the loading process.
- Cryogenic handling: Verifying that the rocket's structures can withstand the extremely cold temperatures of cryogenic propellants without becoming brittle or compromised.
- Flow and distribution: Confirming that the propellants flow through the rocket's systems as expected, reaching the engines at the correct rate and distribution.
- Safety mechanisms: Evaluating the effectiveness of safety mechanisms to handle any unexpected situations during the propellant loading process.
- Overall system performance: Assessing the rocket's behavior and technologies under operational conditions and identifying any potential issues that need to be addressed before actual flights.
The successful completion of a propellant load test is a significant milestone in the development of a rocket, as it indicates that the rocket's propellant systems have been thoroughly tested and are ready for the next phases of testing, which will include static-fire tests during which actual engine ignitions take place while the booster remains grounded.
SpaceX plans to use Booster 9 to propel Starship SN25 to orbit, Booster 10 serves as a back-up if Booster 9 does not pass the pre-flight tests. Having two boosters enables SpaceX to speedup the rocket-ship’s development. Engineers have built multiple Starships and rockets at the Starbase factory that will all undergo similar testing and flight tests until SpaceX achieves building a space-ready launch vehicle capable of launching cargo and crew to orbit. The exact timeline of when SpaceX plans to perform the second flight attempt to orbit is unknown, the company is pending a spaceflight license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Read more: SpaceX tests Starship orbital launch mount's newly installed steel water deluge system for the first time [VIDEO]
Propellant load tests recently completed for Starship Super Heavy Boosters 9 and 10 pic.twitter.com/2JbUnYEu5o— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 24, 2023
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Featured Images 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.