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SpaceX Starship 20 and Booster 4 Retired, OneWeb to Fly with SpaceX, 5000 Exoplanets and more

As always this week there are news of the place to talk about. The next generation of Starships are being assembled at Starbase while the Booster 4 test eventually involves the use of methane. Another captivating spacewalk turns OneWeb launch provider with breathtaking views of the International Space Station and the world below.

With the deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope as we count 5000 recorded exoplanets and counting, are we about to enter a new golden age for astronomy? Well, I think it’s safe to say that activity at SpaceX starbase in Boca Chica has increased over the past two weeks. Where the Florida site had been a hive of activity for a few weeks, Brownsville appears to have picked up a high gear.

We have a few announcements that have taken a lot of surprises, which I’ll fix shortly, but first let’s look at events since our last weekly post. We left Ship 20 and Booster 4 with a cryo test in the sky, fully parked. He remained there for several days. Last Saturday, the ship quick disconnect plate was removed away from Ship 20 and the arm was soon mounted away from the vehicle which allows the Mecazilla system to transverse under the tower.

As always by NASA Spaceflight its beautiful footage was taken back to the transportation stand next to the orbital launch mount, ready to receive the ship. The stabilization arms were engaged after 7 PM that night, and soon after, Ship 20 was destroyed by Booster 4, where it was soon lowered to the stand. Interestingly, this appears to be the first time that SpaceX hadn’t closed the streets to try.

It’s really just a neat observation. Ship 20 was later moved to the Ship Testing and Cryo Station area. On Monday, Highway 4 was closed to the public the morning before the test closed, which was expected to be a fuel test of Booster 4. More specifically liquid methane and liquid nitrogen together. Additionally, an announcement for pad closure was heard at the launch site.

In which everyone on the pad was told that “the pad will be in 1 hour after closing” and “please leave the pad site now.” It was soon upon us at 3 p.m. and the tank farm was active and methane was pouring out of what was visible near the storage tanks. There was also venting methane recondenser which only activates when methane is involved. This examination continued till the evening. As far as I remember, this is the first time we have put methane in the booster itself.

The main question is why only liquid methane, not even liquid oxygen. I can only assume that this test was more to test the fuel farm system than to purge the methane lines and test the booster. Highly speculative, but I’m interested in your thoughts out there. What do you think SpaceX was doing here with this test? By midnight the trials were over and the road was reopened.

It looked like tests of Booster 4 were conducted with SpaceX’s LR11000 crane lifting the massive load spreader on Tuesday that was later attached to Booster 4 and retracted the Booster Quick Disconnect on Wednesday . B4 before its landing from al-orbital pad A. 

An hour later the B4 got down at the transport stand. This is where we make our surprise announcement of course. This quite unfortunate but expected news was confirmed by Elon Musk on Twitter this week. They confirmed that the first Starship orbital flight would take place with the Raptor 2 as they are more capable and reliable with 230 tons of thrust at sea level. 

There will be no orbital flight of the giant starship which was first landed at the launch site in August last year. These behemoths have been sitting for over 230 days. Would you believe this!? Well, many of you might be thinking that this sucks. This is where the sucking news ends, because in the same tweet, he also said that they will have 39 flyable Raptor 2 engines by April, which will need another month to integrate with the vehicles.

So we now expect to see orbital flight tests in May, assuming that’s approved. The FAA has certainly pushed back another month, as seen on Friday, so let’s hope that by the time the next full stack is ready, we see that resolved as well. Constant monthly push back I agree, feeling quite the disappointment. I guess if they had provided a more realistic timing from the start.

Not so eager about it. So which booster and ship will make this flight. Is Elon talking about Booster 7 and Ship 24? News continues on construction site construction on new ships and boosters. The Booster 9 common dome sleeve was rolled out of a tent and flipped upright. However it is still unknown whether it is going to be reassigned to Booster 8, given that its normal dome section was scrapped a few weeks ago.

At Highbay, Booster 7 received its triangular aero covers, which can now also technically be called Chine or Streak, over 1 row of COPVs! It is rolling in and out of the high bay as well as preparing that it seems to be in for a move very soon. The forward sleeve for Booster 9 has been flipped upright, and its forward dome was pulled out of a tent and lifted onto a slewing stand to be slew on Tuesday.

The Booster Liquid Oxygen header tank which was seen at the build yard has since been mounted in a tent, and then integrated with the aft dome section that is considered for Booster 8. A medium liquid oxygen section with thermal protection system studs, possibly for ship 25, was lifted from tent 3 into the nose yard. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a new test tank. The first section of Booster 7.1, a test tank, has been found outside the highbay.

The sleeve was composed of four 1.5 m rings similar to the previous booster aft dome. It makes us suspect it’s going to be a 33-engine test tank. Speaking of the 33 engines, a fourth 13 engine thrust puck for the internal set of engines on the booster was delivered this week. So yes, what do all this mean. Yes. We need to reintroduce this booster test stand called Can Crusher. Of course from the build site it rolled up and took off at the launch site this week.

There it is now standing in the Booster Cryo Station area. Now some exciting HLS news this week, NASA has selected Starship for an additional mission to the Moon with astronauts as part of the Artemis program. At least… I think that’s what it says… See what you think. “Exercising an option under the original award, NASA is now asking SpaceX to convert the company’s proposed human landing system into a spacecraft.

Which meets the agency’s requirements for recurring services for the second demonstration mission.” Artemis III was already awarded definitively and will have astronauts landing on the Moon aboard the SpaceX Starship Human Landing System. I think that there will be many now under finalization of a new award. Speaking of HLS, a neat clip recently by Ryan Bell talking to Victor Glover, and now Victor’s lead role as HLS representative .

So far the work is going very well and a lot more remains to be done. I hope we get to hear and see a lot more around this. Please help us share this incredible news. Now I talked last week about the potential Starlink payload dispenser installed in the Ship 24, along with the door cutouts on the nose cone barrel. I had several people in the comments suggesting that this is just a possible test lift system for the HLS.

I do not believe so. Firstly, that door is too small for that, and secondly, the priority is getting any of those Starlink version 2 satellites into orbit as quickly as possible. Starship isn’t going to have missions with life any time soon unless it’s thoroughly tested and proven to have multiple missions without.

This week, ErcX and Smallstar released a surprising animation on Twitter of how this dispenser can act like a Pages dispenser, sending one satellite at a time. Totally speculative, but looks great all the same. It doesn’t even need to open massive payload bays.

 

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