The Starship successfully completes its dress rehearsal

SpaceX’s fully assembled Starship rocket has successfully completed one of its most important tests: the wet dress rehearsal. More than ever, the 120-meter-tall rocket is getting closer to its first orbital launch attempt.

A surprisingly successful test

It is the largest rocket ever assembled. It is also the most powerful. On takeoff, the launcher’s 33 Raptor engines will indeed produce up to 7,590 tons of thrust, more than any rocket in history, by far. This Monday, January 23, the Starship also probably became the heaviest rocket of all time.

As part of this wet dress rehearsal, SpaceX teams have indeed opened the floodgates, loading the ship and its booster with more than 4860 tons of liquid oxygen and methane in 90 minutes. When fully loaded, the combined weight of rocket and booster probably exceeded the 5000 tons. For comparison, the Saturn V and N-1 launchers weighed about 2,800 tons when fully loaded, Teslarati recalls. SpaceX was then able to empty its rocket and return propellant to ground storage tanks about four hours after the test began.

A priori, everything went without major problems, which is quite rare for a new vehicle.

This success contrasts with the old policy of SpaceX which, as early as 2018, had given priority to the speed of execution of its tests, which inevitably led to many failures. The engineers then learned from these failures to constantly improve their productions. The culmination of this strategy was the series of seven suborbital tests involving two short jumps of small prototypes and five attempts to launch and land advanced prototypes between August 2020 and May 2021. On the fifth attempt, and after four failures, the Starship had finally landed successfully and in one piece.

For the past few months, however, SpaceX has favored a different approach to risk management and systems engineering. The tests are now more cautious. The success of this general rehearsal is probably the result of this new strategy. Or SpaceX just got lucky.

First orbital flight

Teams still have work to prepare the Starship and its booster for the launch vehicle’s first orbital launch attempt. The Super Heavy Booster has yet to perform one or more static shots additional. To this end, the ship will probably be disheveled to avoid any unnecessary risk. It will then be placed back above its booster once these next tests have been passed. In the meantime, the company will continue to work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to finalize the rocket’s first orbital launch license.

This test could take place in a month or two. During this flight, the Starship will make a small tour in space and will then come to rest off Hawaii. The whole mission should last around 90 minutes. For now, there are no plans to collect the booster.

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