SpaceX Starship is used to mount a nosecone after a historic static fire

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the Starship and Raptor’s first static fire was a success, opening the door to nosecone installation.

At around 3:13 a.m. CST, on October 20, the Starship 8 serial number (SN8) succeeded They launched three Raptor engines Less than two hours after the completion of the first successful test of three engines. With no direct human intervention, SpaceX removed the cryogenic liquid methane and oxygen fuel for the missile from a distance – the residue was now too warm to be used again in a controlled manner. Within an hour or less, SpaceX engineers combed the data that had been produced and concluded that the three Raptor engines were in good health after a partial ignition test.

Effectively reset to steady state, SpaceX once again proceeded to load the Starship SN8 fuel tanks with a small amount of supercooled LOx and LCH4, almost reversing the pre-burn test. About 50 minutes after recycling began and 25 minutes after the fuel load began, Starship SN8 ignited three Raptors simultaneously – a major milestone for any rocket engine. Fixed firing has now been completed, and the SN8 spacecraft has been cleared to become the first operational prototype to reach a height of 50 meters (approximately 165 feet).

Shortly before Musk confirmed the success of the stable SN8 launch, SpaceX canceled a pre-existing fixed fire window on October 20 and plans to close several new routes on Wednesday October 21. In contrast to the company’s recent fixed-fire shutdowns, which all but one lasted from 9 PM to 6 AM, the new Wednesday of SpaceX is scheduled to close from 7 AM until noon and 3 PM to 5 PM local time (CDT) .

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Although there was a secondary data point, in the context of the successful launch of Starship SN8, the shutdowns alone indicated that SpaceX planned to start installing the Starship SN8’s nosecone on October 21. Musk confirmed this assumption a few hours after announcing the road closures.

it’s not Completely Obviously, however, most observers assume that a Wednesday window from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. is necessary to move a new large crane about two miles between SpaceX’s Boca Chica plant and the launch facilities. The Starship SN8’s stacked nose section would then likely be installed on the same portable self-propelled carriers (SPMT) and rolled to the launch pad from 3 PM to 5 PM, after which the nose would be lifted and stacked on top of the Starship SN8.

A visual comparison of Starship Mk1’s nose sections (left) and Starship SN8 shows some of the improvements SpaceX made in about 12 months. (NASASpaceflight – Nomadd)
The aforementioned new crane was loaded onto the SPMT shortly after the SN8 static firing. (NASASpaceflight – bocachikagal)

SpaceX assembled an entire prototype of the Starship only once before when the Mk1 nose section was temporarily attached to its tank section to be the focus of the Starship event organized by CEO Elon Musk in October 2019. It is unclear why SpaceX did not use one of the mobile cranes that It has been rented for the Spacecraft Tank Division operations (and stacking the Mk1) in the past, so it remains to be seen what the road closures will use on Wednesday.

SpaceX has stacked a prototype of the Starship to its full height only once before. (Teslarate – Eric Ralph)

However, SpaceX’s road closures end with a wildcard. Once installed, the plan is to implement a 3-Raptor stationary fire while only propellant is drawn from the SN8’s header tanks – small internal tanks designed to carry the landing propellant, one of which is on the nosecone Starship tip. On October 21 and 22, SpaceX still has two closures from 9 PM to 6 AM scheduled for the “SN8 Fixed Fire” test. Introduced early October 20, before the successful stable SN8 launch, the most likely explanation is a simple clerical error or miscommunication, with Cameron County or SpaceX failing to communicate properly with subsequent static fire test windows no longer required.

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If the maintenance of fixed fire shutdowns is intentional, then SpaceX – likely at Musk’s request – intends to install a nosecone for the Starship SN8 within hours. It’s almost unbelievable that the Starship SN8’s nosecone – outfitted with multiple gas thrusters, front racks powered by Tesla motors, liquid oxygen head tank, vents, and plenty of plumbing – would have been fitted and had it ready for testing in under 12 hours. With the exception of a surprising method for mating between the nose and reservoir sections of the SN8, the nosecone will have to be welded to the rest of the SN8 and the weld check – usually a multi-day process.

The Starship SN8 stands tall after completing the first Raptor Triple Static Fire Test. (NASASpaceflight – Nomadd)

Regardless, given how quickly SpaceX moved and how successfully CEO Elon Musk pushed boundaries and breaks barriers, it seems reasonable to assume Starship SN8 might be fully integrated and ready for a second steady fire test just a few days from now. Once completed, the SN8 will be ready to attempt the Starship’s first high-altitude flight test, launching to about 15 km (~ 9.3 mi) for a parachute-style landing and landing attempt.

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