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-   -   SpaceX flight testing in South Texas (https://www.pprune.org/space-flight-operations/637604-spacex-flight-testing-south-texas.html)

ORAC 16th May 2021 20:52


SpaceX - The Route to Orbit

…..As reported from recent documentation, SpaceX is targeting the flight of Super Heavy BN3 with Starship SN20 for the orbital test flight.

While the designated vehicles for the mission may change over the coming weeks, a sign the test flight is deep into the planning phase was observed with the publication of a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

According to the FCC overview, the flight profile calls for staging between the Super Heavy and Starship at approximately 170 seconds into flight…..

Super Heavy will have a full set of Raptors; the number has likely changed since the 2019 Starship update when Super Heavy was to have 28 engines. The outer ring of engines will not have Thrust Vector Control while the inner ones will. Starship is set to utilize six Raptors, three sea-level and vacuum-optimized. As such, this test flight alone will require a large stock of Raptor engines.

While Raptors arriving into Boca Chica are in the SN50 and SN60 range, SpaceX’s test site in McGregor is hosting engines in the SN70-80 range, while it is understood that production in Hawthorne is working on engines past SN150 — with a current shipping rate of several Raptors per week.

To support a fully expendable launch with over 30 Raptors, SpaceX has drastically increased the Raptors’ production rate. Following the new clean Raptor design, SpaceX has increased production, while McGregor is ready to cater to the increased test cadence with a new vertical engine test stand.

Demand for Raptors, not least with the first orbital test flight being expendable, will only increase as SpaceX pushes through to future missions with additional Super Heavy and Starship flights.

While the SN20 and BN3 combo will be first in line for orbital flight, it’s expected that the subsequent boosters and ships will pair up accordingly, SN21 with BN4, SN22 with BN5, and SN23 with BN6. In addition, it’s understood that a major design upgrade is set to come with the SN24/BN7 pair…..

ORAC 20th May 2021 21:05


SpaceX starts stacking Starship’s first orbital-class Super Heavy booster

TURIN 27th May 2021 23:35

SN15 moved back to the production facility. Looks like it won't be flying again after all.

Jacob87 28th May 2021 04:41

Hi guys, Elon has just posted an image of SN16 in his Twitter, so I agree that we'll hardly see an SN15 launch.

ORAC 28th May 2021 08:34

Reports I’ve seen say all 3 raptors would need to swapped out, so it makes sense to skip a second unplanned flight and proceed straight to SN16.

Not sure at what point it will be become unlikely existing damaged raptors will be repaired, but if a major redesign is already in production for use in SN24 onwards that point may already have been reached. In fact it may even now be cheaper to junk them rather than disrupt the production line.

Not saying they are cheap - but the new design and mass production makes their price cheaper than those of their competitors by several factors.

Booglebox 28th May 2021 12:12

Reports I’ve seen say all 3 raptors would need to swapped out

ORAC 28th May 2021 20:56

It seems the water dousing after the methane fire after landing…


The day after Starship SN15 was reinstalled on a launch mount, giving SpaceX unrestricted access to its aft, all three of the rocket’s flight-proven Raptor engines – the first of their kind to survive the flight profile intact – were removed…..

To a degree, especially if SN15’s flight-proven Raptor engines were rendered unusable – as they appear to have been – by exposure to water immediately after touchdown, “reusing” the Starship would be more symbolic than anything.

With a thorough inspection, it would be easy enough to determine that the Starship’s structures and mechanical/hydraulic systems would be up for a second launch, but the slow ~10 km (6.2 mi) flight profile ships SN8 through SN11 and SN15 completed was already only relevant for testing Starship’s exotic, unproven method of landing.

In that sense, another fully successful ~10-km launch and landing would only benefit Starship development insofar as it would increase confidence in the landing profile by proving that the first success wasn’t a fluke – however incredibly unlikely that might be.

Of note, SpaceX also has not plans to recover the first space-proven Starship, instead (nominally) performing a soft-landing in the Pacific Ocean if the prototype makes it through its inaugural spaceflight without issue.

If that “Orbital Test Flight” is a perfect success, SpaceX will likely have enough confidence – and regulators enough data – to proceed to the first attempt to recover an orbital Starship on land.

In the meantime, with orbital launch site buildup now moving at a breakneck pace and tens of millions of dollars of custom pad hardware, giant cranes, and months of work sitting a few hundred feet away from the landing pad, attempting to push the envelope with SN15 likely just isn’t worth the risk…..

ORAC 8th Jun 2021 14:59


OLS grows ahead of Super Heavy debut Current Starship Status:

The fate of Starship SN15, following its milestone success with a smooth test flight and landing last month, is still unknown. It is likely awaiting preparations to go on display at Starbase. It is already sitting on display stands.

SN16 continues to reside in the High Bay, all but ready for rollout to the suborbital pad. However, that appears increasingly unlikely, as SpaceX focuses on the upcoming orbital attempt from the launch site next door to where SN15 completed its momentous test.

SN17’s fate is known, with sections of what was to become that Starship now observed as being scrapped at the Production Site.

Meanwhile, SN20’s aft dome has also been spotted by Mary (@bocachicagal), sporting three mounts for RVacs, indicating SN20 may be the first Starship to fly with both sea level and vacuum optimized engines. SN20 has yet to begin stacking, which will take place inside the Mid Bay. The facility was recently vacated by the Super Heavy Test Tank 2.1.

The Test Tank has since made the journey down Highway 4 to the suborbital launch site for proof testing, a key test series that will provide important data for similar tests conducted with the first full-stack Super Heavy.

Named “Booster 2” by Elon Musk– likely because this is the second Super Heavy to become a full-stack booster following the pathfinder stacking operations with BN1 – the sections labeled BN3 continue to be stacked inside the High Bay, behind Starship SN16.

Additional preparations on Sunday saw the large downcomer being transported to the High Bay for installation. It will eventually become the first Super Heavy to take a road trip to the Orbital Launch Site (OLS), which continues to be a hive of activity.

Orbital Launch Site:

A large workforce continues to work on construction activities at the OLS, with the most dominant feature being the rise of the Launch Integration Tower required to host Super Heavy. Three sections are now installed in-situ, with additional prefabricated sections – residing at the Propellant Production site – preparing to roll to the launch site.

The sections are being lifted into place by the LR11350 crane, which the SpaceXers nicknamed “Frankencrane” due to its variety of boom extensions from various other cranes. It recently gained an extension as the tower height continues to grow.

The tower already has the support beams for an elevator system, allowing its inner staircase to be removed.

Next to the tower, the Launch Mount now has its six extensions installed. The launch table – currently being prepared at the Production Site, is also being prepared for transport and installed on the extensions.

During this time, the third segment of the integration tower has been lifted, then fixed to the rest, thanks to the Frankencrane crane……

ORAC 14th Jun 2021 14:46

It’s only when you watch the video and see the size of the engineers guiding the next segment into position you realise how massive a structure this is…..


SpaceX Starship launch tower grows to more than half its full height


TURIN 16th Jun 2021 22:57

Launch tower gets another two sections and SN16 off to the scrap yard along side SN15.

ORAC 17th Jun 2021 05:50


Texas official threatens SpaceX with arrests over control of public roads

Authorities in Texas have reportedly accused SpaceX staff of attempting to block access to public roads around its property in Boca Chica and allegedly impersonating a public official.

Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz wrote in a letter to SpaceX Senior Director of Starship Operations Shyamal Patel, obtained by KGRW reporter Ruth Mireles and picked up by Business Insider, that when Saenz sent his staff to investigate, that the company “immediately approached, stopped and detained” them before turning them away.

The letter additionally noted the Cameron County authorities had not given the company permission to shut down any roads and that the county had previously warned of similar alleged acts in April.

Neither SpaceX nor Cameron County responded to a request for comment from Business Insider.

Saenz warned in the letter that impersonating a public official is a third-degree felony in Texas, adding that the “conduct is unacceptable” and that the company could be subject to prosecution if similar behavior in the future breaks Texas law.

“While SpaceX is a valued member of our community, this does not authorize SpaceX, its employees, staff, agents and/or contractors to disregard Texas law,” Saenz reportedly wrote.

ORAC 30th Jun 2021 09:48


SpaceX plans to use its Starlink internet on Starship orbital launch to demonstrate connection quality

SpaceX’s upcoming Starship orbital test flight could end up being a veritable smorgasbord of its technological capabilities, as the company has filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to request approval to fly Starlink terminals on the spacecraft in order to “demonstrate high data rate communications” between the new launch system and the ground throughout the course of the trip to space and back.

SpaceX plans to show that its network of Starlink low-Earth orbit satellites can provide “unprecedented volumes of telemetry and enable communications during atmospheric reentry” even during the parts of the launch where communications signals are typically lost due to the presence of “ionized plasma” in the atmosphere during the re-entry phase.

If it works, it could provide better than ever live data for SpaceX during its test flight, which should help with the Starship and Super Heavy launch system’s development — and it could mean better, more spectacular views for those of us just watching from home via livestream, too.

Including Starlink as the communications method for telemetry and other communications during the launch is definitely a functional improvement for SpaceX if it works as described, but it’s even more of a flex for the company in terms of showing off Starlink’s capabilities.

The FCC filing notes that the terminals to be installed on the spacecraft are basically just its existing consumer terminals with new exterior housings, so if it performs well that could attract the attention of more consumer broadband customers.

Plus, SpaceX is also talking a lot about the capabilities of Starlink as a system to replace older, more distant geostationary satellites networks to provide things like connectivity on airplanes, on ships and in other in other transportation modals. Showing that it offers solid performance during a rocket launch is definitely going to encourage partners in those areas.

The filing does specify that its license to operate Starlink on Starship begins on August 1, which means either it’s planned for a launch after the one SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company is hoping to fly sometime in July, or the date has already likely slipped to the following month.

ORAC 30th Jun 2021 09:59

TURIN 1st Jul 2021 08:56

Bit out of date now Orac. (Edit, your post has gone) We're on to the next level now..

ORAC 6th Jul 2021 19:02

Major changes to Raptor engine plans and Starship and Heavy engine numbers and layout….

My sums might be wrong, but I think the Saturn 5 had a total thrust of around 3800 tons…. (7.6M pounds)

Total Saturn 5 take-off weight was 2950 tons, but on figures below Super Heavy will lift over 5000 tons…

Just to put it in perspective the first time one lifts off the launch pad. I’d love to be there - the experience of a lifetime having been to young to watch Apollo on anything but the TV (though I did get to one Shuttle launch).


SpaceX CEO Elon Musk teases nine-engine Starship, Raptor upgrades

All Raptors on booster, whether fixed or gimbaling, would be the same. 33*230 gets ~7600 tons of thrust & T/W of ~1.5.”

ORAC 6th Jul 2021 19:19



SpaceX’s Super Heavy Booster No. 3 stacked at the company’s high bay facility made an appearance last week. The vehicle was transported down Boca Chica’s Highway 4 on July 1, 2021, to a modified section of Pad A, where it is expected to begin cryo testing.

Known as Booster No. 3, or BN3, this engine-less pathfinder vehicle is set to undergo a series of pressure tests in the upcoming weeks at the company’s South Texas launch facility, named Starbase by the company, to evaluate the integrity of the tank itself.

While BN3 is busy pathfinding, common dome sections of BN4, a flight-capable booster, are currently being put together in the High Bay.

The company had originally hoped to make an orbital flight with both Starship and a Super Heavy booster in July. However, according to a tweet from Elon, it seems SpaceX will be happy if both Starship and Super Heavy are stacked by the end of the month, which seems to be a much more realistic expectation.

The company plans on mating Starship 20 (SN20) and BN4 at some point later in the month. These two vehicles are expected to make up the first orbital flight test of the Starship …..


TURIN 6th Jul 2021 20:57

Nine engines on Starship? That will be a complete redesign of the thrust Puck. I assume that means that at the moment Starship is too heavy and requires more deltavee. Maybe. Or is the booster not as capable as we thought?

ORAC 9th Jul 2021 13:43


SpaceX Starship booster weathers thunderstorm ahead of first ‘cryo proof’


ORAC 15th Jul 2021 10:12


SpaceX schedules first Super Heavy static fire after installing three Raptors


FAA warns SpaceX that massive Starship launch tower in Texas is unapproved

TURIN 18th Jul 2021 19:35

Launch tower topped out.
Legal or not its there now.

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