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Update on preparations at Boca Chica for next Starship/Superheavy test launch

Link here. The article provides an excellent review of the extensive work SpaceX is doing, especially in repairing and upgrading the Superheavy launch facility.

Overall, SpaceX is moving fast, suggesting that Elon Musk’s prediction that it will be ready technically to launch in August quite believable. I remain doubtful that launch will happen in August, however, as I fully expect the FAA and the Biden administration will not issue a launch license on time, but will delay it.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.


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  • Steve Richter

    My bet is on a launch. SpaceX has credible fixes for all the failing parts. And there has not been the steady stream of critical and coordinated commentary that you normally get from the left when they control the narrative and prepare to lower the boom on the good guys. The left much prefers to work as a pack.

  • Edward

    That is a good article at the link. I especially enjoyed the video about Raptor reliability, embedded in the article. It helps to explain developmental testing. When we civilians see a test without knowing what is being tested, we make assumptions as to whether the test was a success. If we think it did not go as we expected, then we assume the worst. However, the test may have been looking at something we don’t know about or understand.

    I’m getting to the question: why on Earth would SpaceX launch Starship when they knew three Raptors would not be lit at ignition time?

    The answer is obvious. The company was willing to test something other than a perfect launch or a perfect flight. They were willing to risk not getting to orbit in order to learn some things about their system.

    Why test now rather than later? Look at some things that have delayed other rockets. Tests that came close to launch time caused launch delays in SLS, and a test in the Vulcan rocket’s upper stage has also delayed Vulcan’s maiden flight. Could those tests have been performed earlier, giving more time to fix problems? Possibly.

    Early testing gives important information earlier. SpaceX flew Starship landing tests using ships that were already obsolete; more current designs were completed and even more-current designs were under construction even as the obsolete ship flew its test. The flight of the obsolete ship gave important information, some of which might have been incorporated onto the next flight and some of which would have to wait for a ship not yet built. The early information that they gathered gave plenty of things for the engineers to ponder as they built their next few Starship test units. April’s flight gave the engineers at least 1,000 ideas for improving their system, and they can do them now, this summer, but they couldn’t have done this had they waited until a more perfect test unit was available. Even then, it will not be as more-perfect as they would have thought, because it would not have incorporated many of the thousand improvements.

    Learn by doing. Galileo taught us that. Aristotle believed that we could ponder nature and figure it out — we are that smart, he thought. Galileo realized that, although it may not be nice to fool Mother Nature, she is perfectly willing to fool us. What we think is true may not be true. This is why we test the ideas that theoretical physicists think up. We learn by doing, not be pondering. Socrates may have thought that the answers lay within us, but the true answers lay in the test results.

    Test early! Test often!

  • Edward: There is one more benefit gained by testing often and early. Your employees gain priceless experience operating the rocket or spacecraft or whatever. As you say, you learn by doing. SpaceX’s Starship/Superheavy launch team already has wealth of actual experience operating their rocket, experience they would not have gained had they worked like NASA did with SLS.

  • Edward

    Robert Zimmerman
    SpaceX’s Starship/Superheavy launch team already has wealth of actual experience operating their rocket, experience they would not have gained had they worked like NASA did with SLS.

    That is a good point. Plus they get experience with things going wrong. Much like the Apollo 6 flight.

  • Jeff Wright

    SLS launch also racked up test results.

    Let’s see how Musk’s giant hot-plate holds up.

    If nothing else, you could stir fry a whole herd if he replaces the water with oil.

  • Andi

    Then if all that beef found their way into a Starship and were launched into orbit, it’d be the “herd shot ‘round the world”.

  • Mike Borgelt

    The way I look at it, they were faced with “OK we have to scrap and dismantle this stack or we can shoot it”. The latter generates heaps of data (I bet the launch mount was instrumented too and the results drive the re-build), gives the folks practise at operations and improves morale (we got to shoot something).
    SLS is a jobs program going nowhere slowly and at great cost. Think of the opportunity cost alone.
    The human race is very lucky indeed to have Elon and SpaceX..

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