Ship 24 rolls out for testing while Booster 7 receives Raptors

by Elliot Mai

The recent focus at Starbase has been Booster 7 and Ship 24. Booster 7 appears to have completed its series of cryogenic proof testing and is now being prepared for static fire tests. Ship 24, meanwhile, has rolled out to the launch site for its own cryogenic tests ahead of engine install, static fires, and once paired with a booster, the orbital flight test.

Following its ambient and cryogenic testing last month, B7 returned to the Production Site for a replacement of its methane transfer tube which was crushed during testing. After all necessary repairs were made – primarily a new transfer tube being installed – the booster returned to the Launch Site and was lifted back onto the Orbital Launch Mount (OLM) for more cryogenic testing.

Booster 7 has since returned to the Production Site yet again and is currently residing in the Mega Bay for what appears to be Raptor installation. The Raptors that have been spotted entering the bay have been Raptor Boosts which make up the outer ring of the booster’s 33 engines.

To fulfill the needs of the boosters and ships which are currently being used for testing and hopefully an orbital test soon, a mixture of Raptor 2 engines and RVacs have been delivered. Engines labeled up to Serial Number 74 of the Raptor 2 engines have been spotted – a huge feat by SpaceX given the short time of development.

For there to be an orbital test launch though, the FAA must complete its environmental review. Previously, the review was expected to be completed on April 29, but it has been delayed for the fourth time and is currently slated for completion on May 31. This review is a crucial step for SpaceX to be able to conduct an orbital flight.

Apart from B7 and the FAA, there have also been developments in the High Bay regarding Booster 8 and Ship 24. Booster 8 is in the process of being stacked and has had its updated methane transfer tube installed and its liquid oxygen (LOX) tank stacked. Ship 24 had its nosecone stacked and its aft flaps attached before rolling out to the launch site.

After nearly a year-long stay in the rocket garden, Ship 16 was moved to the Mega Bay and had its nosecone removed to be scrapped, while the aft flaps were loaded onto a flatbed truck and were carried away.

This ship was never used for testing as it is the same design as SN15, which was the very first Starship to fly and successfully land a year ago this month, but it made for a nice decoration in the garden next to its twin ship. Ship 20 has taken its place in the rocket garden to display a more recent design.

A new cover for the Quick Disconnect arm, more commonly known as the QD arm, has been delivered and installed. Hopefully, this will allow for the “claw” which connects to the ship for fueling to be reattached to the rest of the arm as this too is a crucial component for any fully stacked or orbital tests.

Construction in Starbase

Meanwhile, construction at both the Production Site and the Launch Site is as active as ever. The work on Mega Bay and Starfactory continues, with walls continuing to rise on both buildings.

The Mega Bay appears to be nearing completion, especially given the fact that SpaceX has already begun to use the building for work on both Ship 16 and Booster 7. And on Starfactory, the frame has been completed and the first two walls have begun to be attached.

Construction is ongoing at Starfactory (Credit: Mary (@bocachicagal) for NSF)

At the Launch Site, SpaceX continues to conduct repairs to Highway 4 as the highway receives a large amount of heavy usage between transporting ships, boosters, heavy machinery, and fuel deliveries, in addition to everyday usage. The Launch Site has also received a new gate which will help to increase security.

Construction at Kennedy Space Center

Over at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the first three legs of the OLM have been raised at Launch Complex 39A, and the other three lay nearby ready for installation. These legs have a notable difference from the ones in Starbase: they do not have any “elbow” structures, indicating a potential design change, albeit minor, based on lessons learned in Texas.

As for the Orbital Launch Integration Tower (OLIT), six tower sections have been completed with another early in the construction process and two more remaining to be built. The fifth segment can be seen with a floor that will allow for worker access to that level. Meanwhile, cryogenic piping has been spotted and is being prepared for installation onto the OLIT segments.

The concrete base of the Orbital Launch Tower at LC-39A has an extension to it, and while the tower in Starbase has a similar extension that houses equipment for Mechazilla, the extension at KSC shows that this new tower will not be identical to the Starbase tower.

Finally, two new tents have been set up at Roberts Road and a new one at LC-39A, all of which resemble the ones at Starbase and will likely be used for additional Starship production to go along with the Starfactory and Mega Bay.

Both the Mega Bay and the Starfactory are under construction, with their foundations making substantial progress as pilings and rebar have been installed in preparation for the next steps in construction.

(Lead photo: Mary (@bocachicagal)

For live updates, follow NASASpaceFlight’s Twitter account and the NSF Starship Forum Sections.

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