SpaceX sends Starship’s first Raptor vacuum engine to Boca Chica

For the first time, SpaceX shipped an improved vacuum-enhanced Raptor engine to its Boca Chica, Texas spacecraft factory, days after reaffirming the company’s current plans for a first orbital launch attempt as early as July.

In March 2021, CEO Elon Musk confirmed that he had set SpaceX as his goal The spacecraft’s first orbital launch attempt No later From the end of July – about four and a half months at this time. Fifteen weeks later, even though the odds of an orbital launch attempt in July are virtually reduced to zero, SpaceX COO and President Gwen Shotwell – who are known to be more swayed by the often poor estimates. Musk’s practices – confirmed that the company remained “. firing ”for the spacecraft’s first orbital launch attempt.

By the end of June, to achieve this goal, SpaceX will need to achieve several extraordinary feats of engineering and rockets in record time or attempt to take a very unconventional turn.

The launch pad and launch vehicle hardware required for the spacecraft’s first space imagery are far from ready for flight. On June 24, Musk unexpectedly revealed that a prototype of SpaceX’s super-heavy thruster is now in the final stages of assembly and not in the augmented reality that will transport the spacecraft on its first attempt to launch space. . In other words, despite dozens of episodes in various work situations to be Scattered around SpaceX’s Boca Chica plant, the company has yet to begin assembling the massive 65-meter (about 215-foot) booster needed for its first attempt at an orbital launch.

Using Super Heavy Booster 3 (B3) as a rule, assembly can easily take 9-10 weeks – from the start of the process. If SpaceX starts stacking Booster 4 today, in other words, the rocket is unlikely to be completion the end of August. With the exception of SpaceX taking unprecedented shortcuts, completing the booster is only part of the flight preparation process and the B4 will still need to be qualified for the flight, likely to include at least one test run. cold test and a static fire test.

In the best-case scenario where SpaceX starts assembly today, manages to cut Booster 4’s assembly time in half in one fell swoop, the second Super Heavy sneaks through qualifying testing in a week, and the orbital flight test booster won’t be ready for Starship installation (possibly the unprecedented first) until mid-August.

That would then give SpaceX five or six weeks to fully assemble the Starship S20, a process that has yet to begin. Like the Starship SN15, which Musk says has “hundreds of upgrades,” Musk has also said that Ship 20 and all of the rest will have another set of upgrades needed to take on the Orbital Starship. The SN15 spacecraft was stacked and assembled very gradually over the course of about four months, although this slow assembly was likely due to the fact that SpaceX was busy testing the SN8 through SN11 spacecraft and was actually waiting to see it. he needed it. Other major changes.

The Starship SN20’s push dome (now the S20) is the first scoopless device to feature Raptor Vacuum mounts. (NASA spatial flight – Bocacachigal)

While most of the S20’s upgrades are a mystery, the ship’s push dome – which was spotted in action at Boca Chica earlier this month – has already confirmed that the prototype will be the first with the hardware to install. the Raptor Vacuum engine. This likely means that the S20 will also be the first spacecraft to attempt to launch six stationary Raptor engines *, which could produce more thrust than a Falcon 9 booster. On June 27, a vacuum-optimized Raptor (RVac) arrived. at Boca Chica for the first time at launch, showing that the relatively new engine may already be ready to begin testing spacecraft integration.

*Update: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says That the Raptor Vacuum delivered to Boca Chica on June 27 is in fact for the Starship S20, apparently confirming that the prototype will fly with six full Raptor engines.

Of course, beyond Starship and Super Heavy, SpaceX Also It still has a lot of work to do to partially exploit the rocket’s Class 1 orbital launch facilities. SpaceX will need to complete and activate at least one or two specially designed fuel storage tanks, fill those three or four tanks with three or four massive thermos-like “shells”, complete thousands of feet of plumbing and insulated wires, and complete a huge “launching table”, set this table on a hexagonal “launching platform”; equip and install this table with a set of power, avionics, hydraulics, fueling and plumbing equipment; Complete a 145m (~ 475ft) “Integration Tower” and perform the first fit tests and distance tests with a real booster or spacecraft.

It was only then that SpaceX power Attempt to launch the first spaceship. Said everything, it might not be Literally It’s impossible for SpaceX to complete all of the above work in less than five weeks, but it’s safe to say the odds of that happening could make the lottery ticket blush. Anyway, if the ship reaches orbit at Which Before the end of 2021, it will outperform simpler “next generation” missiles such as Ariane 6, ULA’s Vulcan and Blue Origin New Glenn although coordinated development began years later and with a situation funding less certain.

SpaceX sends Starship’s first Raptor vacuum engine to Boca Chica