(ORDO NEWS) — The fully completed Starship is still ready for the next round of testing of its fully reusable launch system ahead of its debut orbital launch attempt later this year.
This is despite an unexpected failure of the Ship 24 module on Sunday, although that does not preclude a re-test before the next round of testing next week.
A new round of launch readiness tests began on Monday, October 10, with the installation of the PH 7 on the Orbital Launch Platform (OLM).
Then, on October 12, Ship 24 was placed on top of the super-heavy launch vehicle, after which, as expected, a series of refueling tests would be conducted in preparation for a series of static fire tests of 33 Raptor 2 engines installed on the launch vehicle.
However, the installation operations did not go quite according to plan: observers noted the displacement of the launch vehicle when Ship 24 was installed on it.
The problem was confirmed the next day, October 13, when SpaceX workers partially dismantled the rocket and sent workers up the tower, through the quick-release lever, and up on the elevators to conduct a visual inspection before installing the Ship 24 back on the booster.
In general, problems are expected during the first test campaigns, especially those that try to put into orbit the most powerful rocket ever created under the control of completely new propulsion systems.
SpaceX isn’t the only major aerospace organization facing problems and delays in launching a new super-heavy rocket.
Both NASA and Blue Origin are also working on issues – some more significant than others – with SLS and New Glenn, respectively.
In this, Starship and its difficulty are no different.
Despite Sunday’s disruption, sources note that the current plan for the week of October 17 is to complete on-site work and then proceed with full cryogenic rehearsal. Visual confirmation that this plan is in place will be the re-installation of Ship 24 on top.
In addition, the refueling test will be a critical moment for the quick-release lever, which has never before been used for ship cryogenic refueling.
Checking its full working condition is the key to continuing the rest of the test sequence.
In addition, SpaceX may try to repeat the fuel test to get as much data as possible before embarking on a multi-stage static fire test campaign.
Under the current plan, SpaceX will first try to statically launch some of the engines on LV 7, and then gradually increase their number and eventually fire all 33 engines at the same time.
If cryogenic testing of the entire stack is successful this coming week, a static launch could follow as soon as a few days after that.
All this suggests that Starship still has a long way to go before it can make its first launch attempt.
Elon Musk’s latest comments indicate that SpaceX’s founder and chief engineer is targeting a late November launch.
However, given the natural stretch of test schedules and the need to halt and fix discovered issues, a more realistic launch date is currently likely to be December 2022-February 2023.
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