The Starship program continues to inch closer to its first orbital flight. SpaceX carried out a major test on Monday – crowned with success. The two stages of the rocket were indeed assembled on Monday on the Starbase / Boca Chica launch pad – before being fully loaded with fuel.
The firm made the announcement on Twitter in a tweet accompanied by a video in which we can see the two stages of the rocket covered in frost as a result of the loading. Giving a bit the impression that the Starship rocket has been painted white. The icing seen in the images is a common phenomenon that occurs on many types of rockets.
This assembled Starship rocket has been fully loaded with fuel
Its appearance is linked to the loading of fuel and oxidizer, when the latter are in the form of liquefied gas. These gases pass in fact from an environment under very high pressure to empty reservoirs, therefore in an area where the gas pressure is lower. This pressure difference causes part of the charge to pass from the liquid state to the gaseous state which consumes energy and therefore cools the walls of the tanks which actually merge with the structure of the Starship rocket itself. .
SpaceX explains in its tweet: “Starship completed its first full pre-takeoff fueling test from Starbase today. This was the first-ever test of its kind in which the Ship and Booster tank [assemblés l’un sur l’autre] were fully loaded with more than 4,500 tons of fuel”. On top of that, the test saw an almost complete rehearsal of pre-launch procedures.
SpaceX had indeed specified before the event: “This test will help us verify the complete countdown sequence, as well as the performance of Starship and the orbital launch pad in near-flight operation conditions.” With this new success, SpaceX can move towards its very first orbital flight, which, according to Elon Musk, could take place as early as next month.
However, there are still a few small steps to take before this long-awaited take-off. SpaceX must indeed disassemble the two stages and carry out a simultaneous static ignition of the 33 Raptors of the booster, which will be to date the most powerful static ignition test ever carried out by Starlink. A test has already been carried out but it only led to the simultaneous ignition of 14 engines.
Starship completed its first full flight-like wet dress rehearsal at Starbase today. This was the first time an integrated Ship and Booster were fully loaded with more than 10 million pounds of propellant pic.twitter.com/btprGNGZ1G
—SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 24, 2023