SpaceX conducted a test refueling of the 120-meter Starship system – this is a dress rehearsal of the pre-launch countdown

SpaceX conducted a test refueling of the 120-meter Starship system - this is a dress rehearsal of the pre-launch countdown

SpaceX is one step closer to the first orbital flight of the new-generation Starship spacecraft – late on January 23, at the Starbase test site in Texas, the company’s engineers successfully performed a complete refueling (WDR) of the 120-meter-high Starship and Super Heavy systems, namely a pair of full-sized ones. booster Starship SN24 + Super Heavy B7. As usual, the tests could be watched live on the NASASpaceflight YouTube channel; Also, SpaceX published a fragment with the most juicy footage of a full test refueling of all four Starship S24 fuel tanks. The system works on a methane-liquid oxygen fuel pair.

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Since May 2021, when Starship SN15 made its first fully successful altitude flight, SpaceX has adjusted the schedule and postponed the first orbital flight many times. At the end of September, SpaceX first conducted fire tests of the 70-meter Super Heavy Booster 7 rocket with 7 Raptor methane engines, and in November Starship fire tests took place already with 14 engines – then the 14 Raptor 2 engines produced a thrust of 3220 ts, which significantly exceeds the capabilities of the Heavy (2326 ts).

SpaceX has already several times connected the 50-meter Starship with the 70-meter Super Heavy booster using the 140-meter Mechazilla launch tower. This giant structure will be used both to collect rockets on the launch pad and to return the Super Heavy – it will catch the booster after reentry. SpaceX leader Elon Musk previously drew an analogy between mechanical chopsticks and the scene in the movie The Karate Kid (1984) where Mr. Miyagi catches a fly with chopsticks.

The Starship night WDR test is the final preparatory stage before the final fire tests of the new generation Starship system in its full configuration with 33 engines. This is a dress rehearsal of the pre-launch countdown with all the main stages of preparation, except for direct ignition of the engines. SpaceX also conducted a fire extinguishing test.



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Today, the Starship successfully completed its first full-scale test refueling at Starbase in conditions that mimic real-life launch preparation as closely as possible. This is the first time that the assembled ship and launch vehicle were fully refueled with more than 4,500 tons of fuel.

Today’s test will help verify the full sequence of operations during the pre-launch countdown, as well as the operational qualities of the Starship and the launch pad in preparation for the upcoming launch.”

according to the official statement of SpaceX

In early January, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, in another update, announced the high chances of an attempt to launch Starship at the end of February or early March — at the end of 2021, Elon Musk in one of the interviews expressed doubt that Starship would reach orbit the first time, and emphasized , who is “confident” in achieving this goal in 2022. In addition, SpaceX planned to perform up to a dozen Starship test launches in 2022 to complete the test program and move to launching actual payloads in 2023. That is, the development lags behind these plans by at least a year. In June, Elon Musk said that further improved ship and accelerator pairs would appear every month. According to the new plan, SpaceX aims to assemble 5 systems this year – to reach the goal, the company needs to prepare an average of one Starship Full Stack every 2.5 months. A week and a half ago, Musk said that the S24&SH B7 and S25&SH B9 pairs have already been assembled and are undergoing testing, the S26&SH B10 pair is on the way (the ship is already there, and the accelerator is in the stage of large-nodal assembly), while the following pairs are S27&SH B12, S28&SH B13, S3 B14 and S31&SH B15 are already being assembled in workshops.

We are waiting for final fire tests and launch licenses from the FAA — for this, SpaceX must complete all 75 measures required by the regulator. Theoretically, the Super Heavy in the full configuration with 33 engines will be able to produce a thrust of up to 7590 ts. This is more than double the capabilities of the current record holder, the famous NASA Saturn V rocket.

The profile of the Starship test orbital launch remains unchanged – 3 minutes after launch from the launch pad of the SpaceX Starbase in Texas, the Super Heavy accelerator will separate and be guided in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Starship will go into orbit (at least 160 kilometers), perform the deed. , brakes with engines and is guided 100 kilometers from the Hawaiian archipelago of the island of Kauai, which is included in the composition. The company expects the entire test flight to last 90 minutes.

Read more about key program milestones, details of the first orbital launch, and Starship’s outlook in our last year’s longread.

The US regulator has given SpaceX the green light for Starship’s first orbital flight from Starbase in Texas. It may take place before the end of summer

  • Super Heavy and Starship are promising reusable super-heavy rockets and spacecraft developed by SpaceX since 2016 to replace the current family of Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft and are designed to deliver cargo and people to Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars. SpaceX is also developing a Starship variant under the contract of NASA for the Artemis lunar program, which involves a manned flight and landing on the Moon.
  • Once operational, the Super Heavy + Starship system will be the most powerful in the history of space exploration. The rocket will be able to deliver a cargo weighing up to 150 tons in a fully reusable configuration to low Earth orbit – with the return of both parts (Super Heavy and Starship) to Earth, as well as the possibility of docking and refueling in orbit.
  • SpaceX is also developing a Starship variant under contract to NASA for the Artemis lunar program, which involves a manned flight and landing on the Moon. At the end of 2022, NASA selected SpaceX Starship for the second landing of a crew on the moon under the “Artemis” program – it is not expected before 2027.

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