As SpaceX advances towards the second flight of its powerful Starship launch vehicle, significant progress is being made at the Starbase launch site.
Ship 25 recently completed its six-engine Static Fire test, prompting renewed focus on finalizing upgrades to the Orbital Launch Mount (OLM). Notably, a steel plate water deluge system has recently been installed, marking a crucial step in the launch site’s readiness.
Booster 9, which will undergo pre-launch testing, including Static Fire tests, will benefit from the validation provided by the new groundwork under the OLM.
Concurrently, efforts for Flight 3 are already underway, as Booster 10 has been transported to the Masseys Site for cryogenic testing.
Concrete and Steel Lay the Foundation
In an effort to fill the void left by Booster 7’s launch with Ship 24 during Starship’s maiden flight, SpaceX initiated a massive project involving over 100 trucks of concrete. This was followed by the careful placement of a central steel plate, strategically positioned near the launch site, along with a rolling jig to aid in the process.
Additional waves of concrete trucks arrived to complete the final major pour under the OLM, utilizing around 300 trucks in total for both deliveries. After a short curing period, a test roll was conducted on July 5 to confirm the readiness of the surface for the steel plate. Soon after, the steel plate was successfully installed.
Elon Musk shared insights into the water deluge system during a Twitter Spaces event. He described it as a two-layered, perforated plate steel structure that resembles a massive, super-strong steel showerhead, referred to by some as a “mega steel pancake”. This system aims to avoid a “rock tornado” that was observed during Starship’s initial test flight.
A Waterfall-like Test
The entire installation process of the water deluge system was successfully completed last week, achieving its finalization.
On Friday, July 28, SpaceX conducted the first full-up test of the new system, showcasing immense fountains of water spraying around the Orbital Launch Mount.
SpaceX and its CEO, Elon Musk, shared videos of the test on social media, highlighting the system’s role in safeguarding against the intense heat and force during Starship launches.
Additional view of Starship flame deflector test pic.twitter.com/fOLVfAZVZ2— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 28, 2023
New water deluge system to protect against the immense heat & force of Starship launch pic.twitter.com/JMnBIH8UTM— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 28, 2023
Height Increase and Hot Staging
In addition to the water deluge system installation, other notable work has been undertaken at the launch site.
The Booster Quick Disconnect (BQD) hood has been reinstalled, and the Ship Quick Disconnect (SQD) has returned, with its plate now situated higher on the tower to accommodate the extra ring that will be added atop Super Heavy, starting with Booster 9.
This height increase allows for the employment of hot staging, a change endorsed by Elon Musk that ensures continuous thrust during ascent.
Booster 9’s Arrival and Progress on Other Fronts
Booster 9, previously sitting at the Production Site, alongside a growing family of Boosters and Ships, has been transferred to the launch site.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on the Mega Bay to witness the attachment of hot staging rings to Boosters currently present at the build site.
Regarding Ship 25, it has completed its full-duration six-engine Static Fire test, signaling its technical readiness for the second test flight. A few Thermal Protection System (TPS) tiles were dislodged during the test, as expected, but they will be replaced before stacking Ship 25 on Booster 9.
Ships 28 and 29 are currently housed inside the High Bay, with the former equipped with a payload bay door designed to deploy Starlinks into space like a “Pez Dispenser”.
Expanding Capacity at the Production Site
Significant developments are also taking place at the Production site.
The second Mega Bay is making substantial progress, with prefabricated sections being assembled. Furthermore, StarFactory continues to expand and is destined to replace the production tents at the site.
As SpaceX maintains its momentum towards Flight 3, Booster 10 has already commenced cryo testing at Masseys and is expected to launch with Ship 28.
With these ongoing efforts and improvements, SpaceX is steadily advancing towards its next Test Flights of the Starship Launch System.