SpaceX Orbital Starship Rises, Booster 7 Thrust Simulator Testing, Crew 4, SLS, Rocket Lab Updates
With a mountain of updates surrounding SpaceX’s Starbase facilities this week, there’s a load of Falcon 9 news expected over the weekend, including the launch of NROL-85. All eyes are on Rocket Labs’ reusable test mission.
Crew 4 preparations are underway as the Axiom space team finalizes its mission in preparation for the return. Big news for Aerojet Rocketdyne, and of course the Space Launch System’s weight dress rehearsals. A plethora of testing continues this week with Booster 7.
Which is in preparation for proving the vehicle for a possible first orbital test flight of the largest rocket ever built. The entire space community is waiting (probably like many of us impatiently) to see FAA approval come very soon.
But at this stage, delays in acceptance haven’t stopped Starbase’s progress in Boca Chica. Last weekend the Common Dome, middle liquid oxygen and aft section in the 12 Ring High section of Ship 24 were removed from the turntable in the High Bay and placed on a transport stand.
This was after using the new robot welder to weld the sections together which is mounted high on the wall. It was then moved to the middle bay where its downcomer was lifted up and installed in the vehicle.
Booster 7 Thrust Simulator Testing,
It of course sits between the oxygen tank below and the methane tank above and allows the methane to flow through the Raptor engine. Ship 24’s nose cone was removed from Tent 3 and exited from the facility, bringing down Highway 4 with these spectacular sights.
It soon entered the production facility back down the road and was driven to High Bay. That night, its nose cone barrel section also made a break for High Bay, following the same path the nose cone had taken a few hours earlier.
During the move, we were also offered a close-up view of the payload dispenser, which now has a door installed that was locked and sealed, something we hadn’t seen before. Additionally, lean-in was added to the section, which allows the nose cone to be directed onto the nose cone barrel which can be easily mounted on top.
All this was definitely indicating that nose cone stacking was imminent. And yes, the nose cone barrel was moved to the high bay and onto the turntable which allows welding using robots. A variation from the previous nosecone, hand-welded in the lobe. The next day, the nose cone was attached to the bridge crane and stacked.
It is expected to be the first orbital class, payload capable ship and is critical to Starlink’s future. For the next few days we watched the NoseOne slowly spin on the turntable as the welding robot joined the two sections together. Really nice to see this kind of build improve over time.
Crew 4, SLS,
Also in the highbay is the Booster 8’s liquid oxygen tank assembly consisting of the common dome and aft section number 2. This assembly was placed on aft section number 3 on Thursday night, lengthening the liquid oxygen tank to 12 of the 24 rings.
Now the surprise for me was that the new section made of the dome we talked about a few weeks ago has now been taken to the scrap yard, indicating that it was built just as a pathfinder or There was some sort of issue.
At the beginning of the week, a newly constructed stretch dome came out of the tent, however, this did not last long as it too was removed with workers cutting into the dome. It was also later taken to the scrap yard, so it is unknown what is happening there.
I expect to see one of these domes in use on an upcoming vehicle soon. It is possible that a test tank would need to be built to allow testing of these new domes before this could happen I imagine. But what seems to be the same day, another new dome appeared in the yard, taking the total to 3 so far.
So yeah, they’re starting to pump these out now. On Thursday the third new dome was raised and placed on a slewing stand and later slew with a stack of 2 rings. This could be a welding pathfinder, or possibly for the start of a test tank.
Rocket Lab Updates
A new nose cone barrel was also seen in the nose yard, possibly for the Ship 25, with gaps in the internal stringers to support the payload bay doors similar to the Ship 24. At the launch site, the SpaceX LR11000 crane separated from Booster 7, leaving it freestanding on the booster test stand called the Cane Crusher.
Later, ground support equipment hoses were attached, and then the road was closed at 10 a.m. Tuesday and announced by PA to be pad clear for Booster 7 operation.Several hours later, venting was visible from Booster 7, possibly depressurizing its tanks after an ambient nitrogen pressure test.
This is the first time that the booster cryo station pipes have been used as far as I know, so they are taking these first tests very slowly and carefully. Then on Wednesday only after 11 am the road was closed and after 2 hours the pad was cleared.
After an hour of tank farm venting, a frostline formed on Booster 7’s LOX tank indicating that cryogenic liquid nitrogen was being loaded. After a while, frost started falling on the methane tank as well.
If you look closely at the wall of frost on the tank below you can see that the ice falls into pieces every few seconds. It looks very similar to the old puck shucking tests we’ve seen in ships past.
Could it be that we are witnessing structural testing of 13 internal engines using thrust rams at the Booster Testing Stand.Let me know what you think in the comments below. After a few hours of testing, the frost line on both tanks began to recede as the tanks lost pressure.All four flight recorders were removed from Ship 20, which adds further evidence that no hypersonic test flight is planned for the vehicle.
Add to this your recent move next to suborbital pad B, the idea being that it could only be here for storage or additional ground testing if it is also placed on pad B. We also bid farewell to Ship 21 with SpaceX on Friday. Not particularly surprising as it has been dormant here for several weeks.
SpaceX is making rapid progress on the construction of the Starship Tower in Florida at the Roberts Road facility. In NASASpaceFlight’s latest Pad 39a flyover, we can see that there are now enough foundations to pre-assemble all eight and a half volumes of the tower. Out of which the work of first four is being completed now.
It appears that Florida sections are taking a slightly different approach. Those 9 concrete bases mean that Starship’s Florida launch tower can be almost completely prefabricated before SpaceX begins transportation to the pad.
Once they start rolling out these segments in a month or two, we should expect the tower to go up very quickly.Compare this to Starbase, where SpaceX was building two or three tower sections at once before taking them to the pad and stacking each completed section straight 6:54.
Once the tower’s structure at the starbase was completed, workers had to spend months outfitting the tower with plumbing, wiring, and more.This didn’t seem very efficient and would have been a safe procedure below ground. It looks like SpaceX has decided to do as much work on the ground as possible before the tower is assembled.
We can already see bumpers or stoppers installed on the first tower section that were not installed on the starbase tower until the pad was fully assembled.They allow the chopsticks to rest on the base of the tower. Additionally, all sections have rails for chopsticks installed on the ground. Along with a few other additions, it’s all a change from Starbase’s tower.
In addition, a new document issued from 10 January indicates that the construction of a 100-metre-high bay officially named “Cape High Bay” has been proposed on Roberts Road.But the case is still not studied. The work schedule is from March 1 to December 1, pending a study by the FAA. At Pad 39a, we were offered some aerial views by SpaceX at the recent Axiom 1 launch, showing the tower base’s work in progress.
The lower half of the concrete base on which the first steel tower section sits is rapidly moved. However, at Starbase, at the time of the tower’s construction, six pillars for the launch pad had already been erected off the ground.