New photos shared by SpaceX show that the company has nearly completed installing a total of 39 upgraded Raptor engines on a new Starship and its Super Heavy booster.
These prototypes – known as Ship 24 and Booster 7 – could be tasked with supporting Starship’s first orbital launch attempt later this year if the two pass upcoming test campaigns without major issues. Whether that’s a likely outcome is still uncertain, but recent progress suggests it won’t be long before the prospects for both prototypes become clearer.
After multiple rounds of validation tests and two trips to and from SpaceX’s Orbital Launch Site (OLS), Texas in March, April and May, Super Heavy Booster 7 (B7) made its third trip to the pad on June 23.
“SpaceX used the six weeks Booster 7 spent in a factory assembly bay to complete the installation of aerodynamic covers, surfaces known as chines or strakes, grille fins the size of a car, Starlink internet dishes and, most importantly, 33 upgraded Raptor V2 engines. Combined, Booster 7 could produce up to 7,600 metric tons (~16.8 M lbf) of thrust at or before liftoff. Crucially, SpaceX also completed installing most of Booster 7’s Raptor heat shields during the same period, completing work in six weeks that brought Booster 4 closer to six months. With its heat shield and all 33 Raptors mostly in place, Booster 7 should be ready to launch static fire tests almost as soon as it is installed on Starbase’s orbital launch pad.
Teslarati.com – June 24, 2022
Building, qualifying, shipping and installing 33 new Raptor 2 engines on Super Heavy B7 was already an impressive achievement and produced the most (potentially) powerful rocket booster ever assembled. On July 2, a pair of photos released by SpaceX showed Booster 7’s near-complete engine section and simultaneously revealed that the company had finished installing Starship S24’s six Raptor engines — and even part of the ship’s rear heat shield. .
Differences are already visible between Ship 24 and Ship 20, the only other Starship prototype to have six Raptors installed. The most notable change is the addition of a metal skeleton that spans the full width of the stern of the vessel – most likely to support flat sections of insulation and thermal protection that will partially seal off sensitive engine components, plumbing, pressure vessels and avionics located inside the rear of the Starship. This additional shielding should help limit the extreme conditions the hardware will be subjected to during ground testing and, perhaps, in flight.
Super Heavy Booster 7 has already completed a significant number of tests, including four cryoproofs and a Raptor thrust simulation test. Since its third return to the pad, SpaceX has performed several more ambiguous tests, none of which appeared to involve loading cryogenic propellant. It’s possible that these tests focused more on Booster 7’s pressurization system, perhaps filling its tanks with the hot gases of oxygen and methane that it will eventually use to pressurize its tanks. It’s likely that SpaceX will want to put Booster 7 through at least one successful wet-dress rehearsal — using real liquid propellant of methane and oxygen — before attempting to static-fire one of its 33 Raptors. The rear thermal protection system of the Booster 7 is also not entirely completed, so technicians will need to complete the installation of several additional panels prior to any static fire testing.
Alongside B7, Starship S24 completed a fair amount of cryoproof and Raptor thrust simulation tests, which it survived without any unrecoverable issues. The ship was then returned to an assembly bay on June 9, where workers installed thermal protection tiles, finalized the ship’s engine section and performed dozens of other less visible fencing tasks. SpaceX also recently completed modifying one of its two suborbital test and launch mounts for Starship static firing tests, leaving the other semi-permanently modified mount for cryoproofing and thrust simulation testing. future prototypes.
SpaceX has requested permission to close routes — each a potential 12-hour test window — on July 5, 6, 7, 11 and 12.