Approximately two weeks after the first-stage accelerator prototype was damaged on the platform of the next-generation Starship launch vehicle, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) repaired the rocket and returned it to its orbital launch site in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX is currently developing Starship, which will be its largest rocket to date in Texas, although it is awaiting the completion of an environmental assessment of the facilities by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The company is rapidly producing both engines and rockets to prepare in advance for the orbiting campaign, which is crucial to its future plans.
SpaceX lifts booster 7 at orbital launch site as FCC paves the way for a test flight campaign
As part of its campaign for rapid testing and production, SpaceX is building both the lower and upper tier of Starship. The first is called the Super Heavy booster and is 230 feet tall, while the second is simply called the Starship. Just now, a study of the company’s missile prototypes by vigilant photojournalists covering Texas operations has revealed that the company has fully assembled accelerator number seven, and it was this rocket that first went to orbit in April.
When he returned, an image showing the inside of the booster tank’s liquid oxygen tank began circulating on several social media platforms. To generate thrust through dozens of Raptor’s full-generation full-flow methane-powered rocket engines, Starship will use methane as fuel and liquid oxygen as oxidant to react with the fuel.
For ignition and take-off, both must make their way to the combustion chambers of the engines. However, because the tanks are stacked on top of each other, methane must flow through a pipe inside the oxygen tank, and it is reported that this pipe was damaged when SpaceX tested the booster pressure in April.
The image reveals that the pipe, officially called the “descent”, which is responsible for transferring methane to the engines, was flattened while inside the oxygen tank, the reasons for which remain unclear. Given the time it takes SpaceX to assemble these prototypes, and the proximity to potential FAA environmental approval, this has raised concerns that the orbital launch could be delayed.
However, while remaining true to its fast-moving culture, SpaceX appears to have successfully replaced the broken component and transported the rocket back to the launch site. Booster 7 was tracked during its journey by vigilant photojournalists on NASASpaceflight, and right now the booster is waiting for what should naturally be another test.
These releases require SpaceX to notify local authorities of road closures, and the next closure is scheduled for 10 a.m. local time, when we can learn more about the fate of Booster 7. Most importantly, the rocket’s return to the site comes when SpaceX moves forward with another regulatory flight test application.
This application sees that SpaceX wants permission from the FCC to add another data transfer frequency to the Starship spacecraft for an orbital flight test. It will be valid for six months from the 21st of this month, and is needed to enable the Commission to coordinate with federal radio frequency users such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States Department of Defense. The frequencies of Starship launches are described in detail in SpaceX documentation to the FCC, made in 2020.
The FCC approved SpaceX to add another bandwidth yesterday, with approval at a time when the FAA’s pending environmental review is also moving forward.
As part of its review, the FAA should consult with several government agencies for their views on the launch site, which is harmful to the environment. Of the five separate sub-reviews for Boca Chica, Texas, four have been completed, the last being consultation is required under the National Historic Preservation Act 1966 (NHPA). This leaves only the Environmental Assessment (EA), which falls solely within the scope of the FAA, and the agency currently expects this to be completed on the 31st of this month. SpaceX will then be able to apply for launch and testing licenses from the agency, both of which require separate processes.
For more information on SpaceX Starship, see: