SpaceX Completes Full Stack Testing ahead of Flight as Starbase Continues to Change

by Ryan Weber

SpaceX has completed a successful Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) of Ship 25 and Booster 9 and other systems tests ahead of an upcoming test flight. Now destacked and awaiting regulatory approval for flight, SpaceX continues to expand and improve the production site for future vehicle cadence.

On Oct. 17, SpaceX destacked Ship 25 off of Booster 9 due to issues between the the ship and booster. Then, on Oct. 20, SpaceX restacked Ship 25 after troubleshooting and readied for a Wet Dress Rehearsal.

SpaceX then conducted a rare Sunday test when the full stack was twice loaded with Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) and Liquid Oxygen (LOX).

This also allowed for the testing of subsystems, such as the Ship engine chill down, grid fins, Reaction Control System (RCS) thrusters, and Booster engine purge. The FireX system and the water dulge were also tested on the ground side.

This is the first time SpaceX tested the water deluge with the new tank installed, and the deluge was noticeably bigger and slightly longer in duration.

Then on Oct. 24, SpaceX conducted a full WDR on Ship 25 and Booster 9. SpaceX fully loaded the stack with nearly 5,000 tons of LOX and Liquid Methane (LCH4) during this. The full stack was then run through the full launch countdown right until activation of the FireX, which turns on just seconds before engine startup. Once SpaceX had mostly detanked another test of the water deluge.

With full stack testing completed, SpaceX is now waiting for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to complete its review. Then, the Federal Aviation Administration will give the final sign-off.

After all the full stack testing was completed, SpaceX destacked Ship 25 on Oct. 26 – followed by the removal of the Hot Staging Ring the following day.

With this destack Ship 25 ties Ship 24 for most stacks and restacks. However, for Ship 25, this should be the final time until regulatory approval and the arming of the Flight Termination System (FTS).

On Oct. 20, Ship 26 completed a single engine static fire that, according to SpaceX, was a simulated deorbit burn. After this test, the launch site LR11000 was rolled over to Ship 26 and hooked up to the ship. Then Ship 26’s transport stand with Self Propelled Modular Transporters (SPMTs) configured for a ship move was moved next to Suborbital Pad B.

Ship 26 was then transported back to the Production Site on Friday.

SpaceX moved the Human Landing System Prototype Noscone from the village to behind Mega Bay 1. The full purpose of this prototype is still unclear. The rest of SpaceX’s future vehicles have been pretty quiet recently.

As seen via NSF’s latest flyover of Starbase and Masseys, and there are a few new things to note.

SpaceX has continued to rebuild the Ground Service Equipment (GSE) building over at Sanchez, adding insulation under the outer steel wall to help control the inside temperature. This will allow the GSE team to be nice and cool while being able to do more accurate welds on equipment.

Sanchez Site (Credit: Jack Beyer for NSF)

A trench has also been dug along the eastern border of Sanchez to allow for the laying of conduit, which will have electrical cables running through to the substation in the back of Sanchez.

A big change to note is the dismantling of the Propellant Production plant at Sanchez. SpaceX has been slowly removing piping and large equipment and trucking them out. It is unclear if SpaceX is doing upgrades or has given up on propellant production at Starbase for the time being.

Boca Chica Shipyards (Credit: Jack Beyer for NSF)

At the Production Site, work on the new Starfactory continues as the roof for the taller sections is nearly complete. The footings for the next phase, located where Tents 1, 2, and Midbay were, should be poured as soon as SpaceX finishes laying the conduit. SpaceX has also begun installing the elevator shafts in the back corners of the new High Bay and has started putting in the truss work for the roof.

SpaceX has removed the entire solar farm in Boca Chica Villiage since their production site now runs off of the local power company. Also, foundations have been started to add new houses to the village. These will be for SpaceX workers to live in.

Over at Masseys Booster 11, has undergone two cryogenic proof tests with the booster thrust ram stand. There are also several test tanks over at Masseys; the new Elliptical Dome (Edome) test tank is currently on the burst pad and ready to be destroyed. S27’s Aft has since been removed from the cage and should soon be replaced by S24.2, which is set to test the new payload bay design.

Masseys (Credit: Jack Beyer for NSF)

Then, at the launch site, there is a nice and shiny new parking lot just behind Suborbital Pad B. This will help keep cars off of the side of the road and give SpaceX workers a better place to park. SpaceX has also started building the pipe stands for the new tanks that will be installed where the old landing pad was.

Starbase is constantly changing and being improved as SpaceX figures out how to build and maintain Ships and Boosters going forward.

Lead Image: Launch Site Overview. Credit: Jack Beyer for NSF

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