What’s next for Starship?

Key Points

  • 🚀 SpaceX has made significant progress at Starbase.
  • 🗓️ SpaceX requested a maritime exclusion zone for rocket launching activities on August 31, 2023.
  • 🛠️ Despite progress, it’s unlikely Starship will launch by that date due to ongoing work and testing.
  • 🚀 Tests have been conducted on Ship 25 and Booster 9, but challenges like engine shutdowns persist.
  • 💡 Retrofitting and testing continue on the Orbital Launch Mount to prevent previous damage.
  • 📜 SpaceX submitted a mishap report to the FAA after the first test flight failure.
  • 💥 Self-destruct system issues need resolution before another test.
  • 🌍 Environmental groups are suing SpaceX and the FAA over the launch license.
  • 🚀 Despite challenges, the pace of progress suggests a launch attempt by the end of 2023 is possible.

Significant advancements have been achieved by SpaceX at Starbase; however, the prospect of an imminent launch remains uncertain.

In a recent development, the company has formally requested a maritime exclusion zone from the U.S. Coast Guard for “rocket launching activities” scheduled for August 31, 2023. Despite substantial ongoing efforts and testing, the likelihood of a Starship launch by that date remains remote.

Focused testing has been conducted on Ship 25 and Booster 9. Ship 25 has undergone modifications, with its lifting points removed from the nose cone, paving the way for its next elevation atop Booster 9. The latter, having undergone a recent static fire test, was subsequently transported back to the production facility. The test, intended for a five-second duration, concluded prematurely at 2.74 seconds, with four Raptor engines ceasing operation ahead of schedule.

In addition to progress with Ship 25 and Booster 9, SpaceX is diligently addressing the refurbishment and testing of the Orbital Launch Mount. This effort aims to prevent a recurrence of the damage sustained during the Integrated Flight Test in April. The water deluge system has undergone multiple successful tests, effectively countering the energy output of the Raptor engines. Repairs have been executed on the tank farm, which was affected by debris during the test flight, while evaluations of the quick disconnect system are still underway.

The involvement of the FAA adds another layer to the situation. Following the initial test flight failure, recently reported by Payload Space, SpaceX has now submitted a mishap report detailing its findings. However, the FAA is yet to review this report and determine the necessary corrective actions to proceed with subsequent tests.

Among the likely concerns is the rocket’s self-destruct mechanism, which experienced a delay in initiating the destruction of the rocket after the test flight veered off course. SpaceX conducted a minimum of one trial of an updated self-destruct system, but the adequacy of this attempt remains uncertain.

Meanwhile, legal action from environmental groups has led to lawsuits against both SpaceX and the FAA, with the aim of revoking the 5-year launch license. As of now, neither SpaceX nor the FAA has provided any updates pertaining to the ongoing litigation.

Although a launch by August 31st seems improbable, SpaceX’s advancement toward another Starship launch is notable. The rapid strides achieved are undeniable, making a launch attempt by the end of 2023 considerably plausible.

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