Ship 20 awaits the following stages in preparation for an orbital velocity flight test, most likely while Super Heavy Booster 4 conducts a more ambitious ground test campaign. Ship 20 and Booster 4 are still being prepared, despite a traffic bottleneck back at the Production Site, and parts for Booster 7 and Ship 23 have been discovered. Simultaneously, the new “Wide Bay” emerges from the earth, necessary for the rising processing cadence.
With the launch of Ship 20 on Friday, SpaceX made history with its Starship program. Three Raptors were activated on a Starship simultaneously, and the first time, more than one RVac was started at the same time.
While the test schedule hasn’t always matched Elon Musk’s very ambitious timescale detailed in numerous tweets, Starship’s development continues to astonish. Furthermore, the vehicles are passing through testing with no RUDs (Rapid Unplanned Disassembly) and look to be following a successful design evolution, with additional enhancements on the way.
Ship 20 is now scheduled to fly on the test flight. However, a swap to Ship 21 is still possible. Regardless, 20 has already demonstrated its usefulness during ground testing, with multiple goals for the entire test program achieved. Friday’s milestone achieved multiple goals, including prop loading, an excellent preburner test preparatory to recycling, and the first-ever six-engine ignition of its whole set of Raptors. Elon Musk quickly verified that all six engines were used in the trial.
Only a few of Ship 20’s Thermal Protection System (TPS) tiles were released during the test, which would have put additional strain on their attachment points due to the vehicle being held in place during a Static Fire test rather than released during a launch.
This is a sign of development, and data will be fed into new cars in the future. In the next few days, road closures have been publicized as one of the formal signals of imminent testing, leaving the door open for Ship 20 to undertake extra testing.
However, the attention will shortly shift to Booster 4, necessitating even more significant strides in Static Fire testing. Booster 4 has 29 Raptor engines, with the prospect of testing the whole set of machines by the end of the year.
To begin, the Super Heavy rocket must return to the Orbital Launch Site, as it did during the first-ever full-stack fit check. The two vehicles were hoisted into place by the massive LR 11350 “Frankencrane” – which has since been disassembled and hauled away from Starbase. The new crane, an LR 11000 with SpaceX logo and colors, has arrived and been constructed at the launch site, while the former LR 11000 (“Bucky”) has been transported to the place.
The LR 11000 is small, does the same stacking procedure as the LR 11350. Stacking will most likely be performed by the Mechazilla system’s chopstick arms, which is part of its planned purpose with grabbing Boosters and Ships upon their return.
Testing on the chopsticks has been proceeding in recent weeks. However, it has yet to travel up and down the launch tower as necessary for stacking operations. Recent days have seen the “Reeving” of the lines that will help the chopsticks to go in the vertical direction on the Tower, with testing of this system possibly taking place this month.