Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX Starship Booster 4 returns to the launch site

A view from early August of all 29 Raptor engines installed at the base of Starship Super Heavy Booster 4. Credit: Elon Musk / SpaceX

A view from early August of all 29 Raptor engines installed at the base of Starship Super Heavy Booster 4 while in SpaceX’s High Bay. Credit: Elon Musk / SpaceX

Both Starship Booster 4 and Ship 20 are back at the launch site at SpaceX’s Starbase in South Texas about a month after the pair’s brief first stacking.

While Ship 20 has been there for a while, Booster 4 was rolled to the launch site Sept. 7, 2021, after being inside the High Bay several miles down the road at the build facility for the last several weeks.

The last time both Booster 4 and Ship 20 were at the launch site together was in early August when the two were stacked for fit checks. While it’s unclear when the next time the two vehicles will be stacked, the near-term expectation is for Booster 4 to undergo cryogenic proofing and possibly static fire testing. Exactly when those are slated to occur, however, is unknown.

More progress continues at the launch site including Raptor installations for Ship 20, thermal protection system upgrades, and GSE-7 rolling to the test site.

Ship 20 has been the subject of recent updates and upgrades in the last few weeks. On Sunday, a Raptor engine was spotted being staged and prepared for installation on Ship 20.

While it is not known for sure how many Raptors will be installed in the upcoming week, three sea level and three vacuum Raptors will ultimately be installed once Ship 20 is ready for orbital flight.

Ship 20 also received maintenance on its thermal protective system. Some of the tiles had been marked in various colors of tape representing the condition each particular condition was in. This week, however, technicians were spotted doing maintenance and replacement work on the tiles, seemingly upgrading and preparing the system for its first orbital launch.

On the other side of the property at the ground support equipment tank farm, GSE-7 was moved into position, presumably in preparation of upcoming pressure testing. The GSE will house liquid nitrogen for an upcoming orbital Starship booster.

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Having a life-long interest in crewed space flight, Desforges’ passion materialized on a family vacation in 1999 when he was able see the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-96. Since then, Desforges has been an enthusiast of space exploration efforts. He lived in Orlando, Florida for a year, during which time he had the opportunity to witness the flights of the historic CRS-4 and EFT-1 missions in person at Cape Canaveral. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2017, holds a degree in Aviation Management, and currently works as an Operations Analyst in the aviation industry in Georgia.

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