Flight 4 preparation continues as ship 30 is set to static fire next week

NASASpaceflight.com

30 SpaceX has rolled out Ship 30 to complete its engine testing campaign and has completed Booster 13’s cryogenic proof testing.
Ship 30 Engine Testing Ship 30, which is slated to fly on Flight 5 with Booster 12, has been rolled out to Suborbital Pad B to begin its engine test campaign.
For this testing, it is expected that Ship 30 will perform the same tests as Ship 29: a Spin Prime, six-engine Static fire, and a single-engine static fire.
Notably, Ship 30 rolled out with engine covers, the first for a ship.
With all these milestones, Ship 30 could be the final ship to static fire on Pad B, which would end an era.
Orbital Launch Pad 2 SpaceX has gone full steam ahead with groundwork for the second Orbital Launch Pad at Starbase, starting with installing piling and rebar cages.
This is only the start of what is a very long process of building a full orbital launch pad.
Featured Image: Flight 4 Preps Continue with Ship 30 on Pad B (Credit: Jack Beyer for NSF)

NEUTRAL

thirty.

After completing the cryogenic proof testing of Booster 13, SpaceX has rolled out Ship 30 to conclude its engine testing campaign. In the meantime, preparations and upgrades are ongoing in anticipation of Flight 4, which may occur by the end of May.

Engine Testing of Ship 30.

Rolling out to Suborbital Pad B, Ship 30 will undergo engine testing in preparation for its scheduled flight on Flight 5 with Booster 12. It is anticipated that Ship 30 will conduct the same tests as Ship 29 for this testing, which include a single-engine static fire, a spin prime, and a six-engine static fire. May 7, 8, and 9 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CDT will see road closures due to this testing.

Ship 30 made history by being the first ship to roll out with engine covers. Booster 10 was the first to bypass a Spin Prime in that manner. SpaceX may now begin skipping spin primes on ships in combination with the new enclosed engine install stand and engine covers.

A few things have changed since Ship 30 was placed on the pad. Firstly, there are now two additional roll thrusters situated directly above the forward dome. The six tile-like antennas that were previously on the nosecone have been replaced by the new radio antenna, which is an improvement over Ship 29.

The addition of a new Liquid Oxygen (LOX) vent to the top of the LOX tank is very intriguing. It appears that this vent has a sensor connected to some sense lines that enter the tank, and it may also have a new pressure relief valve.

Massey and Booster Thirteen.

After being fully stacked on February, Booster 13 was sent to Masseys for cryoproofing. February 2, 2024.

SpaceX unveiled the new booster cap for boosters without a Hot Stage Ring during the rollout. During the vehicle’s stay outside the Bay, this cap will help keep contaminants and water out. Booster 13 had grid fin covers in addition to the cap because it had not yet received grid fins.

Two new LOX vents, one on each side of Booster 13, are an interesting addition. They seem to be the same type as those that have appeared on Ship. Similar to Booster 10, Booster 13 has the new large baffles installed on the engine section already.

After arriving at Masseys, Booster 13 successfully completed two cryo-proof tests: a full LOX tank and a full Methane tank. Boosters 11 and 12 received the same tests at Masseys, and it appears that this is the future course of action for boosters. After completing these, Booster 13 was moved to the center work stand and rolled back to Mega Bay 1.

With great effort, SpaceX is still preparing the new Ship static fire stand. To be installed, every component of the flame bucket has been lifted into the trench. The new methane tank farm has been venting, suggesting that SpaceX is almost certainly close to having this new test stand up and running.

Ship 30 might be the last ship to static fire on Pad B, capping an era, given all these accomplishments. Nevertheless, it would also mark the start of SpaceX consolidating testing into a single location distinct from the two Orbital Launch Pads.

Launch Pad 2 in Orbit.

The construction of piling and rebar cages is the first step in SpaceX’s rapid progress on the groundwork for the second Orbital Launch Pad at Starbase. These will assist in stabilizing and supporting the numerous structures that teams will erect over the course of the following 18 to 24 months.

To facilitate access for heavy machinery and a staging area, SpaceX has filled in the area directly in front of the Gateway to Mars sign.

To make way for heavy machinery to avoid passing through the launch site entrance, a section of the wall that the sign is located on has also been destroyed. The process of constructing a complete orbital launch pad is far from over.

Orbital Launch Site Modifications.

SpaceX has begun testing and filling the nine new horizontal tanks with liquid nitrogen (LN2) and LOX, following months of pipework to hook them in. SpaceX no longer needs the vertical tanks since these are operational, and in keeping with that, every weld for the Cryo Shell lifting points has been examined before being taken out.

With one LN2 tank completed, SpaceX is getting ready to finish clearing the perlite from the remaining three LOX tanks and the second LN2 tank. Currently, SpaceX might only remove one more tank before Flight 4, but by Flight 5, it’s possible that none of the original vertical tanks will remain.

In keeping with the Launch Site upgrades, SpaceX replaced the old actuator on the left chopstick arm with a new one that allows for a higher flow rate into the actuator. This has significantly increased the arm’s opening and closing speed, in conjunction with SpaceX’s efforts to either upgrade or boost the output of the chopstick hydraulic system.

In order to prepare for a possible booster catch on Flight 5, SpaceX has been installing conduit for the wiring and adding padding back on the sticks in addition to a faster arm.

Preparations for Flight 4.

SpaceX has upgraded the linkages that help move the hold-down arms in and out of the inner Orbital Launch Mount (OLM) ring in preparation for Flight 4, and presumably a quicker pad turnaround time between Flight 4 and 5.

Additionally, teams have replaced the clamps on the hold-down arms, something they have done before every flight thus far.

To safeguard the primary cryogenic supply lines entering the Booster Quick Disconnect (QD) Hood, additional measures for Flight 4 include the installation of a new hood with an improved seal and redesigned design. SpaceX recently finished a full retraction test, and the Ship QD received an additional set of insulation wrap for its main supply hoses.

The most significant development ahead of a potential Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) in the upcoming weeks was SpaceX’s spinning up of the Orbital Tank Farm (OTF) and its full day of line purging and operational checks. This typically indicates that SpaceX has finished the necessary work on the cryogenic systems at the Orbital Launch Pad and will soon be prepared for a WDR or flight.

Having been granted its Hot Stage Ring, Booster 11 is now ready to proceed to the launch site and is still located in Mega Bay 1.

SpaceX is holding Booster 11 in Mega Bay 1 until teams are prepared, though the launch site might still require some work before it is mounted on the OLM. But on May 7 and 8, there are two closures from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. that might point to the rollout of Ship 29, Booster 11, or both vehicles.

Heat shield work has taken up much of SpaceX’s time as they work on Ship 29, the other half of Booster 11. Teams are working to provide this ship with the best chance of surviving reentry and are doing this work in response to lessons learned regarding the attachment of tiles. If Ship 29 successfully completes reentry, it will mark a crucial early program milestone.

There may be plans for a WDR soon if SpaceX launches both of the Flight 4 vehicles this week. There’s still no word on when Flight 3’s accident investigation will be finished, even if SpaceX manages to finish a WDR quickly. It might not be too long after that for Flight 4.

Featured Photo: Ship 30 on Pad B as Flight 4 Preparations Continue (Credit: Jack Beyer for NSF).

scroll to top