The first static test of the Super Heavy booster

The first static test of the Super Heavy booster

Wednesday, July 21 2021 11:01 am

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Static test of the Super Heavy Booster 3 prototype (Source: SpaceX)

Static test of the Super Heavy Booster 3 prototype (Source: SpaceX)

Static test of the Super Heavy Booster 3 prototype (Source: SpaceX)

On July 19 at 19:05 local time (July 20 at 02:05 CEST), the first stage static test of the new Starship Super Heavy rocket was carried out at SpaceX in Boca Chica, Texas. The vehicle’s three Raptor engines were started for a few seconds, the test was successful.

Super Heavy Booster 3 prototype on launch pad (Source: BocaChicaGal for NSF, NASASpaceFlight.com)Starship is a new, fully reusable rocket developed by SpaceX, which is to enable a significant reduction in the cost of access to low Earth orbit and to conduct manned flights to Mars. It consists of a booster, called Super Heavy, and a second stage, which is also to be a manned spacecraft, bearing the name Starship, just like the entire rocket.

The first prototype of the Super Heavy booster was created at the SpaceX center in Boca Chica from at least September 2020. It was fully assembled in March of this year, but became a tested model and was quickly dismantled. Another booster was converted into a small test vessel which underwent cryogenic pressure testing in June. Only the third, the Booster 3, became the first full-size prototype to be tested on the premises of the launch complex.

The first elements of the third booster were noticed in Boca Chica at the end of March, it was put together three months later, and in early July it was transported to the launch pad. On July 11 and 12, three Raptor engines with serial numbers RC57, RC59 and RC62 were installed. On July 12, the cryogenic pressure tests were successfully completed, which allowed the preparations for the static test to begin. The first attempt was finally scheduled for July 19 and was successful. The booster was refueled and at 19:05 local time the three Raptor engines were started for a few seconds. Elon Musk confirmed that the Raptors were running for the full scheduled time. He also announced that depending on the progress of work on the next prototype, called Booster 4, perhaps Booster 3 will pass another static test with nine engines.

Booster 4 is the first Super Heavy to be taken into the air, probably right away as part of the rocket’s first orbital flight. It is currently under construction, many more sections of the vehicle were spotted in July, some of them were also assembled. Further work was also noticed on the second stage prototype called Ship 20 (formerly SN20), which is also expected to take part in an orbital flight.

Intensive work is underway on other elements necessary before orbital flight. In July, at least nine more Raptor engines arrived at Boca Chica – during the orbital flight, the booster is to be equipped with 29 engines. According to Musk, it was recently decided that Super Heavy will eventually be fitted with 33 Raptor engines, but this is almost certainly not the case with the current prototypes. The construction of the launch tower is also continued, at the top of which the last, eighth level has been installed. The ground infrastructure is also being expanded, including tanks and an orbital launch site.

Tanks and tower within the orbital launch complex (Source: BocaChicaGal for NSF, NASASpaceFlight.com)

Sources: SpaceX, NASASpaceFlight.com (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9), (10), (11), (12), (13), (14), (15), (16), Elon Musk (1), (2), Brendan Lewis, BocaChicaGal (1), (2)