Raumfahrt - SpaceX’s Elon Musk: Starship Update-42


NASA predicts first Starship orbital launch as soon as December


A fully stacked Starship vehicle on the pad at Boca Chica, Texas, earlier this year. NASA expects SpaceX to be ready to attempt an orbital launch of the vehicle as soon as early December. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — NASA expects SpaceX to be ready to attempt a first orbital flight of its Starship vehicle, an essential element in the agency’s Artemis lunar exploration plans, as soon as early December, pending tests and regulatory approvals.

Speaking to the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee Oc. 31, Mark Kirasich, deputy associate administrator for Artemis Campaign Development at NASA, said the agency’s understanding of progress on testing of the Starship vehicle, including its Super Heavy booster, supported an orbital launch attempt late this year.

“Right now, the schedule would lead to an early December test flight,” he said. The profile for that test flight would be the same as the company previously detailed in regulatory filings, with the Super Heavy booster and Starship lifting off from the Boca Chica, Texas, test site. Starship would go into orbit but almost immediately reenter, splashing down near Hawaii after completing less than one orbit.

That schedule is dependent on several upcoming milestones, including a static-fire test of all 33 Raptor engines in the Super Heavy booster designated Booster 7. SpaceX has yet to fire all 33 Raptor engines simultaneously, having done tests of up to seven engines at a time as well as a “spin prime” test where the engines’ turbopumps are turned on and propellant flowed through the engines without igniting them.

It was during a spin prime test July 11 that SpaceX suffered what NASA euphemistically calls a “high-energy event” when propellants ignited underneath the booster, damaging it. SpaceX has repaired the booster and implemented corrective actions, according to the agency.


Kirasich said that test put “a relatively large amount of fuel” into a cloud of oxygen, triggering the detonation. “That was an operational and planning oversight. SpaceX, in the early days, goes for speed above systems engineering rigor,” he said, calling it a “pause and learn” event for SpaceX.

“They’ve since elevated the level of systems engineering put into each one of these tests, as well as brought in some new leadership into the team down there,” he said, resulting in “additional rigor” in subsequent tests.

That incident also attracted the attention of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel. A member of the panel, Paul Hill, mentioned it at the panel’s Oct. 27 public meeting. “SpaceX is still pursuing an aggressive Starship development test plan, but this failure resulted in corrective actions to increase systems engineering and risk management rigor,” he said.

Kirasich said there are still several milestones before Starship will be ready for an orbital launch. That includes the static-fire test of all 33 Raptor engines in Super Heavy as well as a full wet dress rehearsal where the Starship and Super Heavy vehicles are loaded with propellants and go through a practice countdown.

SpaceX also requires a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration for the mission. While the FAA cleared the way for Starship launches from Boca Chica with an environmental review in June, that review required SpaceX to implement more than 75 measures to mitigate the environmental effects of those launches. That licensing “is still ahead of us,” Kirasich said.

NASA is closely following preparations for the first Starship orbital launch because the agency sees it as the first in a series of tests of a vehicle the agency plans to use to land astronauts on the moon on Artemis 3 through its Human Landing System contract with SpaceX.

“We track four major Starship flights,” Kirasich said, starting with the first orbital launch. That’s followed by one to test propellant transfer in space, which is needed to refuel the Starship lunar lander, and a “longer duration” Starship mission, details of which he did not discuss. The fourth mission is the uncrewed lunar landing demonstration mission scheduled for late 2024.

He said those four tests were evenly spaced in the schedule back when the orbital launch was scheduled for this summer. “SpaceX has lost a number of months” because of the delays in that first orbital launch, he said, but didn’t state how it would affect the schedule of the latest tests the agency is following.

Quelle: SN


Update: 16.11.2022


SpaceX’s Starship briefly becomes the most powerful active rocket in the world


A SpaceX Starship booster has successfully fired up 14 of its 33 Raptor engines, likely becoming the most powerful active rocket in the world.

Throughout the history of spaceflight, only three or four other rockets have produced as much or more thrust than Super Heavy Booster 7 (B7) could have theoretically produced on November 14th. But the Soviet Energia and N1 rockets and the US Saturn V and Space Shuttle were all retired one or several decades ago. Only SpaceX’s own Falcon Heavy rocket, fifth on the bracket and capable of producing up to 2325 tons (5.13 million pounds) of thrust at sea level, is still operational and comes close.

Powered by 33 upgraded Raptor 2 engines that SpaceX says can produce up to 230 tons (~510,000 lbf) each, Super Heavy could have produced up to 3220 tons (7.1 million pounds) of thrust when it ignited 14 of its engines earlier today. That likely means that Starship is now the fourth most powerful rocket ever tested, slotting in above NASA’s Space Shuttle but below the Soviet Energia. And even if all 14 engines never throttled above 73%, SpaceX’s Starship booster likely still produced more thrust than any other active rocket in the world, beating Falcon Heavy. But if NASA has its way, Starship could hold that title for less than 36 hours.


As early as 1:04 am EDT (06:04 UTC) on November 16th, a little over 35 hours after SpaceX’s record-breaking Starship static fire, NASA will attempt to launch its massive Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for the third time since late August. At the explicit request of Congress, which wanted to preserve Shuttle jobs after the end of the program in 2011, SLS essentially shuffles around Space Shuttle parts and replaces the reusable orbiter with a fully-expendable rocket. The Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) have been extended and uprated, and the orange External Tank has been stretched and turned into a liquid rocket booster affixed with four RS-25 engines to the Shuttle’s three.

If things go according to plan, those changes mean that SLS rocket will produce up to 3990 tons (8.8 million pounds) of thrust when it lifts off for the first time, overtaking Super Heavy B7 but also making it the second most powerful launch vehicle in history after the Soviet N1. N1 never succeeded, however, so SLS could become the most powerful rocket ever to reach orbit if its first launch is successful.

But just as SLS appears poised to almost immediately unseat Starship’s position as the most powerful active rocket in the world, Starship is poised to beat SLS to become the most powerful rocket ever flown – successfully or not – when it attempts its first orbital launch either next month or early next year. With all 33 Raptors at full throttle, Starship can produce almost 7600 tons (16.7 million pounds) of thrust at liftoff, beating the previous record-holder – the Soviet N1 rocket – by nearly 60%.

Even if that first launch attempt is unsuccessful, SpaceX appears to be preparing for several more rapid-fire launches that will continue until success is achieved, beating SLS’ other (potential) record. SpaceX has demonstrated that ability once before with Starship when it completed five flights of five different prototypes in less than six months. As a result, it’s likely that by the time SLS launches a second time in the mid-2020s, it will be the third most powerful rocket, second to N1 and Starship.

That slightly awkward upset should be lessened by the fact that Starship and SLS are, for the time being, both integral parts of NASA’s Artemis Program. To return astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, SLS and its Orion spacecraft will transport NASA astronauts to lunar orbit, where they’ll board a Starship-derived Moon lander. Starship will then land those astronauts on the lunar surface, support about a week of surface operations, and then return them to lunar orbit, where Orion will transport them back to Earth.

For now, a massive amount of work remains to be done before NASA and SpaceX will be ready to support that crewed Moon landing. But Monday’s Starship static fire and Wednesday’s potential SLS launch both represent significant, tangible steps towards that lofty goal.

Update: 1.12.2022

SpaceX fires 11 engines of Starship Super Heavy booster ahead of test flight

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