This week SpaceX has made massive progress towards launching their Super Heavy rocket. Last week the booster was a mere tube in the build site, but now it has had the engines installed and been stacked with Starship 20; now laden with tiles.
Table of contents
- Progress with Super Heavy rocket
- Elon Musk biography being written
Progress with Super Heavy rocket
August 1st & 2nd: Booster 4 Raptor engines installed
On the night between August 1st and 2nd, all 29 raptor engines were installed on Booster 4 in the High Bay. This rapid installation was impressive but is certainly not a final installation. While many of the engines installed have already been tested, some have never been fired. These engines will need to be removed and tested prior to the orbital flight.
While the install may not be final, this push was likely to prove the fitment in preparation for stacking and shows that rapid pace at which Raptor engines will be able to be replaced should an issue be found prior to or following the launch. This will be essential to avoid long delays for the eventual 1 hour turnaround time Elon hopes to achieve.
August 3rd: Super Heavy roll out
On August 3rd, Booster 4 with its 29 engines was rolled down the road to the launch site.
August 4: Starship R-Vac engines installed and Superheavy lift
On the Starship vehicle, in addition to the three central gimbaling raptor engines are three vacuum optimized engines. The larger nozzle makes them more efficient in a vacuum.
In these photos, looking up into the Raptor engines, you can see which of the Raptors have been fired (as they have a darker interior) and which have not yet.
August 5th: Starship 20 heat tiles and Starship 20 rollout
For reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, Starship relies on heat tiles to deal with the massive amount of heat generated by friction with the Air. With an estimated 24,250 tiles needed per Starship, manufacturing those tiles will be no easy task. Starship is making use of a standard shape wherever possible to ease the manufacturing process. Even with this standard shape, some areas, like those around the edges of the flaps will require their own custom process and machining to complete.
Even without all the tiles in place, SpaceX moved ahead toward stacking. On August 5th they rolled Starship 20 to the orbital launch site beside Booster 4.
August 6th: Starship Super Heavy rocket stacked (briefly)
On August 6th (delayed from August 5th due to high winds) SpaceX lifted Starship 20 on top of booster 4. Elon tweeted a black and white image of the Super Heavy stacking that harkens back to the iconic photo of Lunch atop a Skyscraper.
The is the first time a Super Heavy rocket has been stacked. With both stages together, Starship is the tallest rocket ever built.
While the sight was impressive, it did not last long. Starship 20 was quickly removed from Booster 4 and rolled back to the build site. With the successful fitment test, we can expect to see Raptors removed for testing and new heat tiles installed as SpaceX readies the rocket for the first orbital flight. With how fast SpaceX is working towards launch, the Environmental Assessment may prove to be the main factor holding them back.
Many have thought the number combination for the orbital launch attempt interesting. Given Elon’s love of memes, many people believed that the combination of Booster 4 with Starship 20 was purposefully chosen. Elon confirmed that the “420” reference was actually a complete coincidence but said that the originally 70-meter booster was slightly shortened in height…
Elon Musk biography being written
While most of Elon’s Twitter this week was focused on the rapid development occurring in Starbase, he announced that a biography is being written on him by Walter Isaacson.
Isaacson is no stranger to biographies. He has written about the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs. Isaacson has shadowed Elon for several days to get an understanding of what his daily life is like. When the biography can be expected for release remains to be seen, but you can be certain we will write a book review once it’s released!
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