Elon Musk’s SpaceX reinstalling Raptor Engines and building custom Starship Propellant Storage Tanks

Elon Musk’s SpaceX reinstalling Raptor Engines and building custom Starship Propellant Storage Tanks: For the second time this month, SpaceX has begun installing 29 Raptor engines on Starship’s first orbital-class Super Heavy booster, potentially paving the way for several important milestones.

On August 1, when SpaceX finished installing the car-shaped grid fin on the Super Heavy for the first time, the company began the process of installing multiple Raptor engines on Booster No. 4 that might one day support Starship’s first orbital launch attempt.

Shortly after its launch, it became apparent that SpaceX was installing a full 29 Raptor engines on Booster 4 at an alarming speed, and less than 24 hours later, all of them had been replaced by the super heavy’s thrust structure.

Barely a day later, Super Heavy Booster 4 was towed to the orbital launch pad and installed on a giant ‘launch table’ that had only been set up for months before assembly.

Four days after engine installation, Starship SN20 and Booster 4 were briefly merged together, creating a complete Starship stack—the longest and most powerful rocket ever built—for about an hour.

However, although it served as a useful learning experience and Pathfinder operation, the two stages were separated and soon returned to the factory. Now, just 12 days after Super Heavy Booster 4 returned to High Bay and 11 days after workers swiftly removed its Raptor, SpaceX has begun the process of reinstalling those engines—though this time around with many new entrants.

Given that Booster 4 has already completed several fit checks, the implication is that SpaceX is now installing 29 Raptor engines that will support the first steady-fire test mission of a flyable super heavy.

Of course, that test (possibly involving several different steady fires of a growing number of Raptors) could detect issues or even damage to some of those 29 Raptors, so it’s not quite right to say that Booster 4 is fitted with the engine. This will help move the starship into orbit.

Based on the results of those tests, though, most could easily find themselves lifting off on Super Heavy B4 later this year. On various news related to Starship, SpaceX has decided to retrospectively build a small prototype of a propellant storage tank for testing. Known as a ‘test tank’, the relatively small steel structure was quickly assembled from parts of an older Ground Support Equipment (GSE) tank scrapped in July over the last week or so

SpaceX completed the first Starship-derived propellant storage tank in April 2021 and rapidly rolled out that tank (GSE1) and a second (GSE2) from the building site to the orbital launch pad in a matter of weeks.

Only three months later GSE3 would finally be moved to – and installed on a concrete mount – the Starship’s first orbital launch site, and only after several structural modifications and in the footsteps of GSE Tanks 5 and 6.

Thankfully, at least, the rapid appearance of SpaceX’s first GSE test tank returns some level of familiarity to the brief but chaotic history of Starship’s orbital launch pad propellant tank.

Test tanks are nothing new and have been an integral part of Starship development since Test Tank 1 for SpaceX’s suborbital launch (and test) facilities for the first time in January 2020. In 20 months, SpaceX has built and tested seven small test tanks, many of which did not survive.

Whether intentionally destroyed or not, each test tank apparently helped SpaceX qualify for newer manufacturing techniques, different materials, and different skin thicknesses and generally more quickly than full-scale prototypes. And collected data cheaply.

Recently, for example, SpaceX successfully tested a Super Heavy Booster Test Tank, subjecting a prototype to cryogenic liquid nitrogen and using hydraulic rams to simulate the thrust of nine Raptor engines on an unproven disc-like thrust structure.


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Information Source: Youtube – DiscoverZen

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