Booster 7 is SpaceX‘s most recent Super Heavy booster to undergo testing, and a newly leaked photograph shows pretty serious damage inside the booster.
After it was confirmed that Booster 4 and Ship 20, the full-stack Starship that was originally supposed to make the orbital flight, would not be taking that journey, it seemed likely that Booster 7 would be the one to launch a Starship on its first orbital flight. The pair was expected, though not confirmed, to be Booster 7 and Ship 24.
Last week, Booster 7 underwent pressure and cryogenic proof testing, and it rolled back from the launch site to the production facility just a few days ago. Now, an image reportedly shows damage sustained to the downcomer inside Booster 7, making it likely that SpaceX will move on to the next prototype booster for the company’s orbital attempt – Booster 8.
The original source of the image, though clearly a SpaceX employee, is unclear. The image circulated a few Discord channels before spreading onto Twitter.
Booster 8 stacking is already underway, and pieces of Booster 9 have already been spotted in Boca Chica.
SpaceX has also continued its work on new Ship prototypes, with lots of progress on Ship 25 and some pieces suspected to be for Ship 26. The damage here, still fairly early in the development of Starship, will no doubt improve future prototypes.
SpaceX had been optimistically targeting May for an Orbital flight, but that timeframe was tight from the beginning and has only looked less and less likely, with further delays in the environmental process possible. We should have plenty of warning when the orbital flight is truly coming up, as Elon has estimated it will take a month to fully integrate the 39 flightworthy Raptor engines to power the orbital flight.