SpaceX begins filling tanks at Starship orbital launchpad

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has begun the process of filling the many tanks at its Starship orbital launchpad in Boca Chica, requiring more than a hundred truck deliveries of nitrogen (for cleaning the interior of the tanks as well as cooling the propellants) and oxygen.

In mid-September, SpaceX began delivering cryogenic fluids to Starbase’s orbital tank farm for the first time ever. Instead of propellant, dozens of tanker trucks delivered liquid nitrogen to one or two of the farm’s tanks between mid-September and mid-October. Altogether, around 40-60 truckloads was delivered – only enough to partially fill one tank. That liquid nitrogen also appeared to be piped into two of the farm’s three liquid oxygen tanks, meaning that it may have only been used to clean and proof test them.

Combined, the farm’s seven main tanks should be able to store roughly 2400 tons (5.3M lb) of liquid methane (LCH4), 5400 tons (12M lb) of liquid oxygen (LOx), and 2600 tons (5.7M lb) of liquid nitrogen (LN2). LCH4 and LOx are Starship’s propellant, while LN2 is needed to ‘subcool’ that propellant below its boiling point, significantly increasing its density and the mass of propellant Starships can store.

It appears that while SpaceX has begun storing oxygen, it has not yet begun loading its methane tanks. When that fuel begins arriving we will know that an orbital launch of Starship is imminent.