Update on Starship Mk1 assembly

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Link here. It appears its launch pad has been assembled at Boca Chica and the spacecraft has been moved and placed on it.

It also appears that they are aiming for the first tests no earlier than November.

The newest videos at the link are worth a glance, though somewhat tedious as with each they view a worksite from a distance where not much appears to happen quickly. The last however shows the ship being moved and lifted and placed on the launch pad.

I cannot deny a certain skepticism when I look at this first iteration of Starship. The hull especially fills me with trepidation, since it is made up of many welded riveted together plates that do not create a smooth surface. I wonder how this surface will respond to returning from orbit at near orbital speeds.

UPDATE: I mistakenly referred to the plates initially as “riveted”. They are welded together, as correctly noted by one of my readers, and I have corrected the post accordingly.



  • born01930

    While rivets would be cool and steam punk-ish, the plates are actually welded together. The irregularities you see are due to the shrinking of the metal after welding. Pressure testing the tanks will probably knock a few of them out, the more questionable wrinkles have had extra plating reinforcement

    The Florida Mk2 is smoother and what appear to be sections for Mk 4 are even smoother. Who know what will happen when this big beer can takes off, but they are beating the pants off of SLS

  • Diane Wilson

    This is a good time to have lots of popcorn ready; this will be exciting times in Texas. Testing in November does not necessarily mean launch in November, though. Ground support equipment needs a thorough checkout. Pressurization tests on the tanks. Once the flight engines are installed, there will be tests of thrust vectoring. There will be one or more wet dress rehearsals, and possibly a static fire. That’s a busy schedule for one month!

    Rumor has it that there will be only one test flight for Mark I, to 20km altitude. That’s a good shake-out for a lot of systems integration, and also for the “swan dive” concept for re-entry. Musk has said that the next test flight would be to orbit, but that will probably be Mk2 from Florida, and I’m guessing that a lot of the final design on Mk2 won’t be settled until SpaceX analyzes the results of Mk1 flying to 20km.

  • Cotour

    Notice that the distortions in the stainless steel increase as you look from the top to the bottom of the ship. That to me initially appears to be a function of the increasing weight of the consecutive welded sheets one on top of the other (?).

    If they are all welded stainless steel panels then why is the distrotion running from less on top to greater on the bottom?

    And if you notice on the smaller ship that did indeed fly the distortions are a bit more pronounced top to bottom and that may well be as a result of the stresses of take off and then landing. This resulting in the characteristic distortions running from top to bottom due to weight. Greater weight equals greater stress and distortion on those panels and their welds IMO.

    Q: If this observation is accurate what will these stresses on the skin and welds result in over time as these units are used over and over?

    Musk seems to love the strength and heat resistance characteristics of the stainless steel. Aesthetically I do not not like the look, lets hope that the aesthetics are not an indicator of fundamental material selection problems.

    But just like some things Trump says and does that I also not exactly agree with or like, the proof is in the pudding and both Trump and Musk make a lot of pudding.

  • Cotour

    PS: I remember Musk has stated that in the future they will acquire rolls of stainless sheet which will be rolled and cut to size and the smaller panels will be eliminated. Which may improve the aesthetics and distortions (?), strength (?).

  • pzatchok

    Looks more like tarnish and not actual wrinkles.
    Wrinkles would reflect different and visually change with different picture angles. Tarnish would not.

    As for effecting flight. I believe that the craft is actually inside a low pressure “quiet” zone after a certain speed is reached. the pressure wave coming off of the nose protects the sides.

    And a rough surface is actually faster than a perfectly smooth craft. At least for boats and float planes.

  • Scott M.

    20 km is about 2X normal cruising altitude for jetliners, so the Mk 1 won’t be seeing orbital-reentry type speeds. My theory (which is mine) is that the Mk 1 will only be used to demonstrate that the current flaps/canard system can control its descent.

  • Questioner

    Most dents will disappear if Starhip Mk1’s tanks are pressurized in the next few days (to look for leaks). There are already rings for Mk3 that were manufactured at the Florida Starship shipyard and have only a single weld.

    I would like to point the reader’s nose to Starship’s 6 legs, which can be extended and use the kind of linear brake to control G-loads while landing.


  • John

    She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.

  • Questioner

    In addition to my comment above:

    SpaceX Starship Updates


  • Lee S

    I adore that it looks like something I could weld together myself!
    NASA uses friction welding, which is beyond my pay grade, but I reckon given a couple of weeks I could tig weld myself a starship together , if SpaceX supplies the sheet metal and engines, ( and beats my present salary!) , I’m happy to set up a 3rd construction facility here in Sweden!

  • Questioner

    Lee, I feel the same way. The fascinating thing about the building process of Starship’s prototypes is that they are more built like a ship or even a building than as a typical aerospace product. I always wanted that. I have never considered rocket-propelled space travel to be an extension of aviation. If it suffices to build rockets and spaceships on base of this relatively crude and certainly not highly accurate method, perhaps the design and construction requirements (“aerospace”) for space launcher have been exaggerated up to now. All this was opened by the decision to use (stainless) steel as main construction material. The accuracy and quality achieved by shipyards seems sufficient for Starship. That’s exactly what Robert Truax always imagined.

  • Questioner

    Addition to my comment above. A view in to Starship Mk1′ fairing section (a new cut opening). We can see construction scaffolding using wooden boards inside:


  • Lee S

    @Questioner… Fantastic!!! The thing really is put together with chewing gum and nails!!!
    If it fly’s this is going to change the face of the race for space forever!!!

  • Edward

    Questioner wrote: “If it suffices to build rockets and spaceships on base of this relatively crude and certainly not highly accurate method, perhaps the design and construction requirements (“aerospace”) for space launcher have been exaggerated up to now.

    Do remember that Elon Musk’s philosophy is to do it inexpensively and quickly. He has shown that he is willing to trade efficiency for reduced cost of the end product, the cost of getting into space.

    The requirement to save some propellant for a first-stage landing is one of the reasons that rocket scientists have been reluctant to try making reusable rockets. The loss of payload capacity was a big criticism of single stage to orbit rockets (SSTO). SSTO was long thought to be an inexpensive way to get to orbit, but its inefficiency was always called out, and SSTO was only given serious consideration in the mid to late 1990s. When SSTO did not work out at that time then it was dropped, seemingly for all time. The reusable Space Shuttle turned out to be very expensive to turn around, so the space community became not as enamored with reusabilty as we expected, back in the 1970s.

    My expectation is that SpaceX’s final BFR launch rockets will have surfaces and finishes similar to modern aircraft, not sloppily assembled water tanks. Since these early test articles are intended for use only on a small number of tests, there probably is not much expense wasted on cosmetic beauty. Each test rocket is built to test certain aspects; the first verified the flightworthiness of the Raptor engine. They may also be learning lessons about inexpensive construction techniques.

    This is one of the reasons that SpaceX is able to do rapid development at low cost. SpaceX did not invent rapid development, but they are bringing it back as an important way to get new ideas to market at low cost, further reducing the cost to customers and assuring a competitive price advantage. I hope that other companies, such as Blue Origin, learn this lesson and also begin to do rapid development of their own future products. Reaction Engines does not have the deep pockets that Blue Origin has, so I do not expect them to do rapid development, but I do expect them to do inexpensive development. https://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/points-of-information/uk-hypersonic-engine-component-passes-test/

  • Questioner

    I like this way of construction very much, because it is just the opposite that we have known for decades at NASA and old space industry. SpaceX left the old ways of over-complexity and over-accurancy behind.

    The must important and used tool for Starships’s construction: the angle grinder!


    SpaceX Starship Mk1 Preps – Boca Chica Landing Pad Smoothing – Nov 8-9, 2019

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