Starship development across Starbase and Florida has continued at a pace over the past week with progress on present and future vehicles and the scrapping of past vehicles, as Ship 21 met its fate.
Starbase: present vehicles
Following a successful Booster 7 cryogenic proof test on the orbital launch mount during the previous week, the vehicle was moved to the structural test stand. This is also known as the “can crusher” and is designed to simulate the thrust of the engines if they were installed.
Booster 7’s test campaign on the structural test stand began with an ambient pressure test on Tuesday. This is where the vehicle is filled with gaseous nitrogen at an ambient temperature. The test appeared to be complete without any noticeable signs of failure.
Testing on Booster 7 continued with another cryogenic proof test but this time on the structural test stand. A cryogenic proof test differs from an ambient pressure test as the vehicle is instead loaded with super-cold liquid nitrogen. Both the ambient pressure and cryogenic proof testing verify the vehicle’s structural integrity.
Soon after the conclusion of testing on the can crusher, Booster 7 was hooked up to SpaceX‘s LR11000 crane and its umbilicals disconnected from the stand. A lift onto the booster transport stand was completed a couple of days after ahead of a move back to the production site.
The future of Booster 7 is uncertain with engine installation or retirement to the Starbase rocket garden both possible options.
Starbase: past and future vehicles
The inevitable scrapping of Ship 21 came this week with its tank section cut into pieces. This iteration of Starship is no longer required as its hardware is now outdated. Ship 24, which had its nosecone recently stacked, is next in line for testing and a potential orbital flight test.
Booster 8 has grown in height over recent days with initial stacking of the LOX tank earlier in the week and more recently, the booster’s LOX tank being mated with an aft tank section. The vehicle is also a contender to perform the first orbital flight test of Starship Super Heavy, but the combination of booster and ship is yet to be determined.
Amongst other noticeable activity, parts of Ship 25 were spotted moving into the Windbreak at the production site. Large parts of Ship 25 have been spotted with potential stacking of the vehicle in the coming weeks.
Starship: other updates
As well as significant progress on past, current and future vehicles, work has continued on the new wide bay and the construction of a new production factory has begun.
Wide bay construction is now on its final level and once complete will house and help stack numerous vehicles. The new production factory also had its first pillars moved to a vertical position ahead of the expected construction of another tent-like structure.
Work on the orbital launch tower segments continues. The fourth section now has all four pillars raised as captured with recent video footage via space enthusiasts. Also noticeable has been the installation of a bumper on the first tower section which is expected to support the chopsticks.
At SpaceX’s Robert Roads Facility where these sections are assembled, there are four more concrete foundations for the potential construction of another four tower sections. It is unknown how and when these sections will be rolled out to the pad at historic LC-39A.
Foundations for the six orbital launch mount pillars were also spotted via a satellite image, paving the way for work on the OLM to begin in future months.