Thanks for joining me again for another weekend dose of space news. This week has been a wonderful week. With action on Starbase Loads of interesting Starship news The Axiom 1 crew returns to Earth after a long stay. The Crew 4 mission exploded into orbit shortly after with the excited Crew of 4.
Starlink is being adopted by airlines, along with another textbook mission, a lot of other good things. Jeff’s engines are delivered, there was a lot of launch push back that week so I thought it was a good time to release it. The link is in the description in case you missed it, but there’s been a huge change in pace this week.
Sadly, and not surprisingly to anyone, the FAA on Friday announced another delay in releasing the Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment, pushing it another month to May 31. Now to be very clear, right now, it’s not because of the delay in the orbital flight test, but a month or two more, and it certainly will.
The FAA has a very important role to play, and I am not going to suggest that this task is simple or unnecessary. However, constantly pushing back my own deadlines looks like incompetence at this point, which I’m sure will make many good people working for the FAA sad. Ideally they would make a realistic statement that provides an actual estimate of some sort.
Anyway, let’s hope we get to hear something more useful in May. As I’m sure many people already know, last week, there was an incident with the Booster 7 during its testing process. We all watched it take off, lift, and take off from the test stand on the transportation platform as shown by NASASpaceflight.
And the booster was entering Highway 4 and rolling toward the production facility. Room had to be made, and after Booster 8’s liquid oxygen tank continued to be stacked before, it was moved out of the high bay by bringing it to 16 of the 23 rings. There, Booster 7 was mounted and ready-to-use bridge. attached to the crane. Earlier this week, largely resembling pieces from the new downcomer segment were brought to the tank.
You must be wondering why would they be doing this? Normally I wouldn’t share any leaked images but at this point it’s been copied everywhere, so in case you haven’t seen it, it was an image that surfaced last week showing the Booster 7’s downcomer. Or the transfer tube was shown to have some significant damage as SpaceX.
Looks like they’re being labeled these days. It’s not the complete disaster that many people were building it. It looks like SpaceX is trying to fix this problem as we can see here. So far, Booster 7 has undergone pressurization and cryogenic tests and it appears that an operation error occurred during one of these tests, which resulted in the downcomer being at least partially crushed as you see here.
I suspect this probably happened when the methane tank was under very high pressure, while the liquid oxygen tank was still under very high pressure. This will either be a procedural problem, or a hardware failure and Jack Golden here has a neat analysis of exactly what could happen. So what about orbital flight testing? We were all thinking.
That it would be a booster to launch Ship 24 into orbital, but now the plan is a little less certain. As we see it, it looks like SpaceX is trying to at least repair Booster 7 again to a flightable condition, but who knows if they’ll pull it off. Another upcoming option might be to scrap it and move on to Booster 8, only time will tell.
Last week, a ship thrust ram was delivered to the launch site and raised to Pad A for preliminary fit checks and later removed. That night it was lifted once again for the last time. Additionally Raptor vacuum thrust rams were also taken to the launch site.
Also with this new frame shared by Starship Gazer. It was lifted into the quick disconnect area of suborbital pad A to accommodate for the updated quick disconnect system on the new ships. Possibly in preparation for the test mission of Ship 24. Simultaneously, several pieces were quickly lifted onto the ship, including the stand and access platform, on the orbital launch tower.
Also disconnect the arm to support the Ship 24’s high QD panel. We also saw an updated version of the QD cord installed and back on the QD arm. Plus we see the Orbital Launch Mount getting a paint job, so work hasn’t stopped here as SpaceX prepares for the first orbital launch test.
At the production facility, Ship 24 is in progress as well as the dome section ahead of it being moved to High Bay on Tuesday to rendezvous with the rest of the vehicle. Later it was picked up and placed on the turntable. It seems that the nose cone would then be topped up, a change from the previous ships. This new stacking order is most likely to accommodate the new welding robot in the high bay.
Additionally, a booster aft dome section was flipped this week, presumably for that new B2.1 test tank we saw a few weeks ago. The production facility houses three iconic tents that SpaceX uses to store and work on various components, including the tank section and nakkon.
But thanks to a document released a few weeks ago, we know the long-term plan is for a larger permanent building. It’s calling the StarFactory as seen from the label on the SpaceX site, and it’s going to make rapid progress. The building is now rising above the ground with the first few pillars having become vertical over the past week.
Just a few days later, several roof beams about 60 meters wide were installed on top of the vertical beams. It will be the first of three new starfactories that will eventually be combined into one giant factory. It will be about 18 meters long, 250 meters long and 120 meters wide. It will provide nearly three times more floor space than SpaceX’s existing tents. There is also a lot of Raptor 2 activity going on.
Last week, we saw that Raptor 2 serial number 42 was delivered on the production site. Three more Raptors were also delivered, including the SN51. But then late Tuesday this week, Elon Musk posted this photo on Twitter showing a series of Raptor 2 engines at Starbase, each producing more than 230 metric tons of force.
So yeah, looks like we may have missed some deliveries. With about 20 Raptor 2 engines in that picture it looks like we’re already close enough to see an orbital booster and ship. Speaking of boosters, the teams were seen here working on the new Booster Transport Stand, which will likely be used for the final stacking and transport of Booster 8. Design that seems big.
And the booster has a denser grid mesh than the previous grid fin. These new fins should be granted a lot of control power. Remember, grid fins don’t create that much drag when the atmosphere passes vertically between them. Only when they are rotated do they have a bigger effect. If you look straight down.
So they become almost completely invisible as shown in this picture here. At Cape Canaveral, a possible orbital launch was observed delivering Mount Leg. Compare these to the legs before they are installed on the Starbase Orbital Launch Mount. They appear to be the same size as what we saw there, but there is one very obvious design change at one end of the leg.