SpaceX Starship booster catching arm attached to launch tower
SpaceX continues to test Starship Ship 20 engines at its South Texas launch facility as engineers connect the Mechazilla chopstick booster catching arms to the orbital launch tower.
Following the successful tests of cryogenic loading and a preburner ignition last week, Starship Ship 20 successfully test fired its Raptor vacuum engine the night of Oct. 21, 2021, which was followed shortly after by a sea-level engine test firing.
Currently, only one of each engine is installed on the test article. However, three of each are expected to be installed in the coming month.
As SpaceX continues to put Ship 20 through its paces on the ground, attention has been focused on the ship’s thermal protection system, which is made up of thousands of black hexagonal-shaped ceramic tiles lining the underbelly of the vehicle.
A few of the tiles are visibly missing after the tests, however this seems to be an improvement from previous tile shedding events experienced by the vehicle. Company CEO Elon Musk tweeted that SpaceX is, “shaking out the problems.”
This seems to be indicative of the idea that SpaceX is looking for failure points in the thermal protection system as it tests other articles on Ship 20.
First firing of a Raptor vacuum engine integrated onto a Starship pic.twitter.com/uCNAt8Kwzo
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 22, 2021
Meanwhile, the “Mechazilla” catcher “chopsticks” have been installed into place on the orbital launch tower.
Last week, the giant chopstick-like mechanism was seen to be moving into place on the skate system prior to installation. This will allow the arms to move vertically about the orbital launch tower to help with vehicle stacking, stability, and ultimately catching the booster as it makes its return back to the launch site.
Last week, Musk tweeted that Starship would be ready for an orbital flight before the end of November.
While the vehicle itself might be ready in that time frame, the Federal Aviation Administration will almost certainly not grant the company environmental approval for an orbital launch by then, delaying an orbital flight until early 2022.
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.