While the news this week primarily focused on Blue Origin’s flight to space on Tuesday, SpaceX has continued to work towards the first flight of Starship Super Heavy. This week, Super Heavy had its first static fire, while Starship may see some slight design changes moving forward.
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On Monday, the Super Heavy booster for Starship had its first Static fire. Elon confirmed that the test was a full duration soon after on Twitter.
Booster 3 is the one currently at the launch site that underwent the static fire, but it will not fly. Booster 4 will be the first Superheavy booster to fly, with Starship 20 stacked on top. While Elon said shortly after the firing that they may attempt a 9 engine firing of Booster 3, all three of the raptor engines from the static fire have since been removed. We will have to wait and see whether SpaceX finds it worthwhile to attach 9 engines to Booster 3 to complete another static fire, or whether they want to just move forward to the testing and flight of Booster 4.
Starship design adjustments
Even with the possibility of the environmental report delaying a Super Heavy launch, SpaceX is continuing to ramp up work. Last week they stacked the final segment onto the orbital launch tower, and now Elon has referenced to places that adjustments may be made in Starship’s design.
The first change may be smaller flaps. Smaller flaps would mean less surface area to slow down and less control surface, but if they aren’t needed, by reducing the size of the flaps they will save both weight and the amount of thermal tiling needed per Starship.
Photos of the build site showed a Starship nosecone with what appears to be a cutout for payload bay doors. Starship will make use of payload bay doors, rather than more traditional fairings, in order to increase the ability to rapidly reuse the rocket. Elon referred to this specific nosecone as “more of a pathfinder test”. So we can expect to see many changes to the size of the door before Starship ever has its first operational launch.
Starship may go on museum display
Museum display pieces are hardly ever a top-priority when rapidly designing prototypes, but in response to a question, Elon seemed open to the idea of a museum acquiring one of the prototypes.
Currently, SN15 and SN16 sit by a public road. With the rapidly changing designs, there is no practical use for them anymore. They could be scrapped, but certainly, the idea of a museum having a prototype is much more appealing. The main problem comes with relocating the prototypes. With their massive size, it is a challenge to move them along a road. Whether any museum would be up to the task of moving them seems unlikely, as even with the SLS pathfinder, only a small section is going on display while the majority of it will be scrapped.
Construction to begin on new, larger high-bay
The current high bay serves as a vital structure while constructing the Starship and Super Heavy prototypes, but it is quickly filled.
Another larger high bay will allow the teams to move at a faster pace as they build both Starships and Super Heavy boosters simultaneously.
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