SpaceX’s massive Super Heavy booster stage now sits (very) high on the company’s launch pad in South Texas, awaiting a series of tests and final checks. The company is eager to launch the fully-stacked Starship rocket for flight test as early as July, but a number of regulatory hurdles still stand in the way.
The prototype known as Booster 7 was transported last week to the Starbase launch site for its third and possibly final trip. In a process lasting from June 23 to 24, B7 was lifted onto the Orbital Launch Mount by a pair of mechanical arms known as “chopsticks,” such as NASA Spaceflight. film material reveals. Booster 7 is notable for being the first flight-ready first stage of the Starship system.
The booster stage, with its 33 Raptor engines, is being prepared for testing at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas before the first orbital test flight, when a spaceship second stage, or orbital stage, is stacked on top and launched into space. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently claimed that: Starship will be ready for its test flight next monthbut the company has yet to resolve some outstanding legal requirements related to the site expansion in Boca Chica.
Starship consists of a Super Heavy first stage and a Starship second stage, the latter of which has already undergone a series of flight tests (but not to space). Both stages are designed to perform vertical landings with a view to reusability. For the first spaceship orbital test flightHowever, both stages will perform ocean splash, with the booster performing a partial reentry and splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico and the booster performing a splashdown off the northwest coast of Kauai, Hawaii. Eventually the top stage will land on its own (what it has been done before), while the booster returns to the launch site and a assisted landing on the path; arms at the launch tower will catch the descending booster phase† Well, in theory.
This particular prototype, Booster 7, first went to the launch pad in March and successfully completed two cryogenic proof tests, but then suffered serious damage during a structural stress test, according to to Tesla. The booster was taken to the factory for repair before being rolled out on the pad for a second time in May, completing a third cryoproof test. After that, the Super Heavy booster spent about six weeks in the factory for its most recent encounter with the launch pad.
It’s not yet clear what kind of testing Booster 7 will undergo on the launch pad or whether SpaceX plans to conduct a full wet-clothes rehearsal, which will involve loading the rocket with fuel and doing a mock countdown before launch. For now, the prototype rocket sits atop the launch pad, supported by two giant arms attached to the launch tower, awaiting its fate.
When stacked on top of each other, those components make up the tallest rocket in the world, standing at 120 meters. The rocket is designed to carry dozens of passengers and cargo to the moon and other destinations in the solar system such as Mars.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently has cleared SpaceX for its site expansion, bringing the company closer to launching the Starship spaceship. But the FAA did hand SpaceX a list of about 75 environmental mitigation measures that it must complete, in addition to clearing security hurdles, before it can gain full permission to launch the giant rocket. Aside from the FAA, SpaceX is also facing pushback from the Army Corps of Engineers, which the company’s application for site expansion was rejected.
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