After the first full wet dress rehearsal, the baptism of the orbit of this revolutionary machine is now fast approaching.
January 23 was a pivotal date for SpaceX. While the Starship is impatiently awaiting its baptism of orbit, this famous new generation space vehicle which already promises to transform aerospace in depth yesterday passed the milestone of a very important test; the Starship – Super Heavy couple had their first wet dress rehearsal integral, a sign that the start is not very far away.
In August, then last September, SpaceX conducted separate static firing tests of the Starship, but also the huge Super Heavy booster that will help it reach orbit. This test involves pushing a portion of the engines to full throttle for a relatively short time to ensure that all systems are working properly, from tank sealing to rocket engine performance.
SpaceX arrives in the home stretch; the goal now is to repeat these tests with the entire structure. This isn’t the first time the Starship has been mounted on its future ejection seat; this duet which culminates in 120 meters above sea level had already been assembled to carry out various tests. But it was still too early to perform the final integration tests.
The first wet dress rehearsal of the whole structure
Yesterday’s was the first milestone of this final sprint. This wet dress rehearsal (WDR) is both an engineering assessment and training sequence for engineers and ground crews. The goal is to get as close to actual launch conditions as possible to repeat the sequence of events that will allow the craft to lift off.
The heart of the test is the filling of the tanks. This involves loading hundreds of thousands of liters of liquid propellant at very low temperatures. In the Starship’s case, it’s methane and oxygen, a combination called methalox. This material will be vaporized and then combined in the injector to propel the device. It is from the presence of these fluids that the term wet comes.
This procedure had already been tested for the Starship and its, but each on their own. Yesterday, SpaceX took the next step by achieving the first complete WDR of the fully assembled colossus.
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
” The Starship completed its first full live WDR at Starbase “, explained the firm on Twitter. ” This is the first time that the Ship fully integrated with its booster has been filled with more than 450 tons of propellant. »
Only two more critical steps before departure
Now that the reliability of the assembly has been verified, only two major technical milestones remain before the Starship is officially ready to fly. To begin with, the Starbase troops will separate one last time from its booster. They will be able to test the latter at full speed. This test has already been carried out for the Starship itself in September, with a big prairie fire (see our article).
Last November, engineers pushed the launcher to just under 50% of its capacity. They fired 14 Raptor V2 engines. The next step will be to push all 33 engines fully. This test will verify that the Super Heavy booster behaves as expected under these conditions.
It will also be an opportunity to test the resistance of the launch pad. A point that is anything but insignificant. Because with more than 7,500 tons of cumulative thrust, the poor platform will undergo bewildering constraints during launch.
Once this deadline has passed, it will be necessary repeat the operation again, but with the Starship capped booster. It will therefore return to the configuration in which it is at this very moment. This will be the last critical test before commissioning. At this stage, the machine will be technically ready to take off.
More than two years after the first lift-off test, and almost a year after the last test that saw the Starship soar to 10 km altitude (see this SpaceX video), the baptism of orbit is therefore fast approaching. It’s probably just one more matter of months or even weeks if all goes as planned. It will therefore be advisable to remain on the lookout while waiting for the next announcements related to this historic launch.