It’s been yet another interesting week at SpaceX’s Starbase. Not only have we seen the first deluge system test, which was a pretty good milestone, more development on the FAA approval process, and some interesting changes to the ship’s stowage with the closure of Ship 24.
Course Rocket Lab had its own incredible electron recovery test mission. Crew-3 returns to Earth after an incredible mission. There’s some great new updates to Sierra Space on the Dream Chaser, one of my favorite upcoming vehicles, Boeing’s Starliner takes off for Orbital Flight Test 2, there’s been some interesting updates on the FAA process.
As I talked about in last Saturday’s article, we were a little saddened by the announcement of another month’s delay. Although they pushed back the release of Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment to May 31, there is now some potentially positive information related to it. According to this updated Permissions Dashboard, the Endangered Species Act advisory is now labeled as Complete.
This may sound minor, but it is at least some progress in the process and one step closer to publishing a review by the FAA. Additionally, the documents were obtained and published through a Freedom of Information Act request from the US Fish and Wildlife Service during this week.
It’s a fairly long document but in the end, the opinion stated here by FWS seems reasonable, which seems to me to be good news for SpaceX. As Jared Margolis, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity, SpaceX, put it here, “little is required in the way of spending, conservation and other commitments”, and that “it seems that the Fish and Wildlife Service is on the back foot.”
As far as impacts on wildlife go, find out a way to allow more harmful use of the Boca Chica site. , There’s a lot to read in this document, so I have a link in the description if you want to read it. The Section 106 review component of the process was also marked as completed yesterday only on Friday.
So now we are just waiting for the same environmental assessment component. I have some high hopes that the monthly pushbacks are over (at least for this part of the process). Ok! Let’s take a look at what’s happening at SpaceX’s production facility. This week, we saw Ship 24’s nose cone section stacked on its 3 ring forward dome section.
This is different from what we’ve seen in the past, as it was normally where the final weld to completely stack the starship was done by hand. However this time the nose cone was kept alone with the front dome part. To successfully weld these sections, the stack rotated continuously for several days as the welding robot joined the two sections.
This new order of stacking means that the Ground Robot Welder can be used for almost all welds, whereas the High Up Welding Robot only needs to be used for the final welds of the top and bottom sections. It is very much like the process of stacking boosters where they put new segments down until the 2 halves are combined.
In addition, it allows them to operate on a fully assembled payload section, even while on the ground. Next to that, is where Booster 7 was being repaired. After being significantly damaged during cryo testing 2 weeks ago, the crew has been actively observed throughout the vehicle carrying out repairs where necessary.
Having certainly completed those repairs since then, at 8 a.m. Friday it made its way onto Highway 4, reaching the launch site just an hour later. The crane had already been attached to the booster and was soon lifted from the transport stand to the orbital launch mount that afternoon. We expect to see the Booster 7 go through some rigorous testing to make sure the fixes have fixed the problem.
Additionally, with respect to the next booster, Booster 8, it appears that the final stacking awaits the completion of the new booster transport stand, of which 20 clamps have begun to be installed.
Also known as BFC, the propellants move to the production area. This crane was one of the first bridge cranes purchased by Starbase and has been on campus since 2019. It’s not clear why the Appleton Marine crane was moved, but SpaceX is preparing it for departure.
Moving all the way to SpaceX’s orbital launch site, there’s something new this week After several months of speculation we finally saw the start of at least the deluge system test on the Orbital Launch Mount. It appears this was just a low pressure test and until we see it in full action, it’s a little hard to say exactly how much water will be pumped out of the system.
A deluge system usually exists for a few reasons, to prevent tremendous heat and pressure from flooding the launch area and melting and damaging the launch table, and to absorb large amounts of acoustic energy from the incredible power of the rocket engine. to do. In the case of the current Starship booster design with 33 Raptor 2 engines, the numbers here are beyond crazy to think about.
Each engine capable of approximately 230 metric tons of force, as reaffirmed by Elon a week earlier, adds about 7,600 tons of force at liftoff. It is still difficult to ascertain the total mass of a fully parked and loaded vehicle, but recent estimates put it at around 5,000 metric tons or more.
This means that we have a weight ratio of about 1.5. In comparison, the Saturn V had a weight ratio of slightly over 1.2, which was expected for the SLS. So we should see the entire starship stack leave the pad and clear the tower in about 8 seconds. With that startling energy blasting through the launch table, the pressure and heat experienced in those first few seconds would be enormous.
What is the full potential of SpaceX’s deluge system? This question is burning in my mind. If we compare it with the deluge system at 39B on the launch pad of the Kennedy Space Center, then before the mobile launcher is attached to it, it clearly shows an explosion of water more than 30 meters upstream in the air. It is part of the security system for the Space Launch System.
Well the total thrust of the SLS is a little over 3800 metric tons. Far less than Starship. With the lack of a traditional flame diversion system and an apparently much smaller deluge system, the question may be, is the SLS system simply overkill? It can release 450,000 gallons of water equivalent to about 1700 metric tons in total, which is released in 30 seconds or more in all mobile launchers and flame deflectors.
It’s definitely all here in a way that connects to the mobile launcher that may not be immediately apparent. So yeah, it’ll be pretty interesting to see how SpaceX’s lack of water systems and flame diverters keeps up in comparison. This has certainly been of interest to me as we have seen Stage Zero evolve over the past year.
Now over the past few weeks there have been a lot of changes going on throughout the launch site at Starbase to support testing and launches of future ships, mainly due to the higher quick disconnect plate on Ship 24 and beyond. Workers have continued to work on the upgrade of the ship’s quick disconnect arm at the tower this week. This new Starship quick disconnect was delivered to the launch site which was then lifted and installed on the arm.
This is on top of a new frame that was raised last week, also on all future ships, to support the higher placement of the quick disconnect panels. Simultaneously, next to the orbital launch tower is the ship cryo station which allows ships to be tested before being stacked on boosters. Like anywhere else, there’s a new quick disconnect function here.