SpaceX launches Starship, stacks world’s largest rocket, Starlink launches hours apart

Within 15 hours, SpaceX rolled out a new Starship to its launch and test facilities in South Texas, reassembled the world’s largest rocket, launched Starlink satellites into orbit, and recovered the reused Falcon 9 booster in port.

The explosion of activity began as the sun set at SpaceX’s Starbase rocket plant in Boca Chica, Texas when a new prototype Starship orbiter-class spacecraft left its ‘nest’ for the first time. SpaceX rolled the spacecraft — known as Ship 25 — a few miles off the highway to nearby launch and test facilities, where workers hooked it up with a large crane and waited for daylight.

At about 9 a.m. CST the next day, October 20, SpaceX elevated Ship 25 to one of two spacecraft test platforms, where it will eventually attempt to complete several qualification tests. While Ship 25 was still suspended in mid-air, the orbital launch tower of the Starbase launch pad began to lift a different prototype, Ship 24, into the air with a pair of giant ‘chopsticks’ – mechanical arms designed by SpaceX to replace one of the largest. Mobile cranes in the world.

Then, while stacking Ship 24 atop Super Heavy Booster 7 and installing Ship 25 on a test stand, a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 54 new Starlink satellites blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Minutes ago, SpaceX finished lifting a reused Falcon 9 booster from one of its unmanned ship landing pads at a port ten miles south.

The Starlink 4-36 was SpaceX’s 48th launch for 2022 and 56 launches in less than 12 months, so the Falcon launch program has no time to waste. The drone ship Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) returned to port with the Falcon 9 Booster B1069 about 12 hours before the missile was flown from deck to SpaceX’s Port Canaveral space platform. The company will now be able to pull the B1069’s legs and complete any necessary refit of the booster ship and drone, ensuring that both will be ready for their next missions in the near future.

Back in Texas, SpaceX is set to begin a comprehensive test of its fully-stacked Starship rocket for the first time as early as Monday, October 24. Ship 24 was reinstalled on the Booster 7 for this purpose after SpaceX broke off the pair for several days, possibly due to forecasts of high winds. The test campaign is expected to begin with the first full rehearsal (WDR) of the Starship’s two-stage vehicle, meaning the rocket will be fully loaded with thousands of tons of liquid methane and oxygen propellants, and powered by a countdown launch simulator that ends before the engine ignites.

If successful, SpaceX will likely restart the Booster 7 static fire test and continue to run until the first simultaneous ignition of all 33 Raptor 2 engines. If the pair survive the WDR and static fire test, SpaceX can begin preparing the same rocket for the Starship launch. orbital for the first time.

If major problems arise during testing, SpaceX could choose to withdraw the Ship 24 and/or Booster 7 and move to a new and improved pair: Ship 25 and Booster 8 or 9 likely. Already completed, the Super Heavy Booster 8 is untouched. The Starbase launch site for weeks, making it uncertain whether SpaceX actually intends to test or use the prototype. Booster 9 is just one package one stack away, at which point it will be ready to start proof testing. According to CEO Elon Musk, the B9 features Big improvements It will make it more flexible Raptor engine malfunctions mid-flight. It could also be the first Super Heavy booster without a hydraulic system, thanks to a new version of the Raptor that replaces the hydraulic power steering with Battery operated alternative.

The Starship S25 could begin its proof-of-sighting as early as next week. Unlike the Ship 24, the Ship 25 moved directly from the factory to a test platform modified with six hydraulic pistons. These rams will simulate the thrust of six Raptor 2 engines (up to 1,400 tons or 3.1 million pounds) while the spacecraft is simultaneously loaded with cryogenic liquid oxygen and/or nitrogen, combining peak mechanical and thermal stresses in a single test. Once the 25th is completed, it will be taken back to the factory to install the Raptor engine and will eventually return to the platform for a static fire test.

SpaceX launches Starship, stacks world’s largest rocket, Starlink launches hours apart

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