Capitalism in space: It appears that the third Superheavy prototype, BN3 (Booster #3), is now being stacked and prepared for the first near-orbital flight of Starship, which SpaceX is still hoping to launch before the end of this year.
SpaceX has at least six BN3 sections – amounting to 22 rings and two of three tank domes – either completed or awaiting integration. The process of stacking BN3 began sometime in the last 7-10 days when SpaceX joined two four-ring sections – including the booster’s common dome, likely pictured above.
SpaceX has mostly completed BN3’s engine section, including a thrust dome with plumbing cutouts for a full 28 Raptor engines. Most recently, what looks like a Super Heavy fuel manifold appeared in Boca Chica. That manifold will attach to the end of a supersized Super Heavy transfer tube – also spotted in work – used to route methane through the liquid oxygen tank to fuel its Raptor engines. Fueling 28 large, high-performance Raptors is no mean feat and requires a rat’s nest of plumbing to feed them more than 15 metric tons (~30,000 lb) of propellant every second at full throttle.
Put simply, a majority of Super Heavy booster BN3’s hardware appears to be ready or almost ready for integration. The eight rings now stacked represent approximately 20% of the rocket’s full height, leaving another 30 or so rings – 54m (~180 ft) – to go.
That flight, the flight plan of which has already been submitted to the FCC, would take off from Boca Chica, circle about three-quarters of the globe, and land in the Pacific to the northwest of Hawaii. While not a full orbit, this flight would demonstrate an orbital capability while allowing for a controlled safe re-entry at a planned location, a wise approach for that first orbital attempt.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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