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Update on SpaceX’s Starship and Superheavy

Link here. The article not only outlines the test program leading to the first launch of prototypes Starship #24 and Superheavy #7, it describes the status of later prototypes, as well as the construction of SpaceX’s Starship launch site in Florida. Key quote:

Booster 7’s gradual approach to static fire testing will allow the teams to fix issues as they test and fully mature procedures and software ahead of the long-awaited orbital flight of Starship. Should this gradual testing go without a hitch, it could culminate in one or perhaps even two 33-engine static fire tests of Booster 7 on the OLM [orbital launch mount].

Once this testing is completed and any issues found fixed, it’ll be cleared to proceed into another phase of testing: Ship 24 will then be stacked on top of Booster 7 for combined tests. This could include launch countdown simulations, an eventual full-up countdown, and a 33-engine static fire test.

SpaceX hopes to complete this by mid-next month and clear both vehicles for launch shortly after. However, as we’ve seen in the past few weeks, any issues encountered during this intense test campaign could well mean a slip to later into the year and, perhaps, into next year.

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.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • GaryMike

    Isn’t SpaceX transitioning from the “test-to-destruction, proof-of-concept” phase to the “prove to NASA and the insurers that SpaceX is a reasonably invest-able resource?

    Takes time, takes attention to detail.

    The Firefly/Serenity meme in me is driving me crazy.

    Breathe, dude.

  • Ron DFesmarais

    I wonder if Ship 26 and 27 could be destined for use as a Lunar Starship or a Fueling Depot prototype? It would be interesting to see, and could be a lower cost/faster option for additional booster qualification.

  • Jeremy, Alabama

    In a sense, the longer this takes, the more we feel invested in the need for a successful launch. It would perhaps have been nice to have a launch (FAA permitting) three or four months ago, even perhaps without a full suite of engines, just to get the vehicle off the ground clear of the tower and performing a separation at 20000ft, and controlled landings of both into the gulf. It would have been a good expenditure of V1 raptors.

    There has been a lot of activity and improvements, both on the vehicle and the facilities, but it feels a bit more like old-fashioned progress (unproven) rather than the Musk way (blowing stuff up).

  • Edward

    GaryMike asked: “Isn’t SpaceX transitioning from the “test-to-destruction, proof-of-concept” phase to the “prove to NASA and the insurers that SpaceX is a reasonably invest-able resource?

    SpaceX still has a couple of concepts left to prove. Reentry is not yet proven, and landing on the chopsticks still seems like fantasy, but if it works, it wouldn’t be the first time that SpaceX brought fantasy to life. In the meantime, Super Heavy is not guaranteed to get Starship to orbit, assuming Starship can get itself there, so Jeremy may yet see another SpaceX explosion.

    Once orbit and reentry are successful, SpaceX will graduate to the phase of improving processes and development of production versions. They still need to develop all the variants, such as lunar lander, tanker (and propellant transfer), payload, cargo, and manned Starships. It is possible that the Mars transport version may be different than the regular manned version, and there may be various varietals of the payload Starship (e.g. “Pez dispenser” for satellites, and hinged fairing for larger payloads).

    Since Starship already has four customers, investors are investing heavily, and NASA is counting on Starship to land Project Artemis on the Moon, I think that people already accept it as a reasonably investable resource. Insurance may be a little higher for the first few insured launches, though.

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