NASA updates on the re-fueling of the spaceship

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This included updates on Starship timelines and efforts as SpaceX readies to conduct the final tests of the fourth Starship Flight Test.
In March 2024, the company conducted another test flight of the Starship system as part of its development program to move Starship to operational status.
“They (SpaceX) conducted their third integrated flight test and successfully completed a full-duration burn during ascent.
Regarding future flights of Starship, NASA indicated that SpaceX has already analyzed the data from the March test flight and implemented numerous corrective measures to Flight 4’s stack of Ship 29 and Booster 11.
In this final demo mission, SpaceX would launch two Starship full stacks from Starbase.
A SpaceX mission overview was presented, which illustrates the mission flow for this mission.
Preparing for Flight 4 Meanwhile, SpaceX is preparing to conduct the fourth Starship Flight Test.
NSF understands that the fourth Starship Flight Test remains on track for the first two weeks of May, with regulatory and technical readiness nearing completion.



The NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee received an update from the agency recently that covered several important facets of the Artemis I through IV missions. As SpaceX gets ready to carry out the last tests of the fourth Starship Flight Test, this included updates on Starship timelines and efforts.

NASA Technical Briefing.

NASA’s Moon to Mars program’s Deputy Associate Administrator, Amit Kshatriya, provided further details on the agency’s observations of SpaceX’s Human Landing System (HLS) progress.

The Artemis III mission has a contract with Starship as its designated landing system. The September 2026 mission is scheduled to be the first crewed lunar landing since Apollo 17 in December 1972, with the goal of bringing people back to the Moon.

As part of its development program to put Starship into operational status, the company carried out another test flight of the Starship system in March 2024. The advancements made on Flight 3 have been encouraging, according to NASA.

“SpaceX carried out their third integrated flight test and accomplished a successful ascent and full-duration burn. That was a big step, then.

Furthermore, full-scale qualification testing of the docking system, which will link the Starship human landing system with Orion and, eventually, Gateway on those missions, was recently completed by SpaceX and NASA. “.

An essential component that will be used to dock the crewed Orion capsule following its launch by an SLS rocket and transport the crew to the Moon is the docking system.

NASA said that SpaceX has already examined the data from the March test flight and made several adjustments to Flight 4’s stack of Ship 29 and Booster 11 in preparation for future Starship flights.

May is the earliest possible launch date; however, May’s end is the latest possible date.

Then, Kshatriya took the conversation beyond the upcoming Starship missions and covered the technologies needed for an orbiting fuel depot as well as the in-orbit fuel transfer capabilities.

For the sequence to function, we require a ship instance that is practically long and has the stamina to remain in orbit for an extended period of time.

That means we require a ship that can stay in orbit for at least three or four weeks. To ensure that the cryogens being stored or intended to be stored don’t boil off, this endurance is achieved by using increased power system capability, increased battery capacity, complete insulation of the cryogenic systems, vacuum jacketing of all the lines, etc. “.

One of the difficulties facing a cryogenic vessel in orbit is avoiding boil-off from the stack. Refueling Starship is necessary to make the journey to the Moon’s surface easier. The business intends to accomplish this by refueling a depot in low-Earth orbit (LEO), which will be supplied by multiple tanker Starships. Next, before leaving for the Moon, the HLS Starship would dock with this depot.

In connection with this, SpaceX and NASA are conducting a multi-phase operation called the Starship HLS Prop Transfer Demo to develop all the necessary technologies to carry out such an operation. NASA provided a chart outlining the procedures.

Although the last flight included the first “Tipping Point Propellant Transfer Demo” and a flight system review, a few more procedures need to be completed before starship refueling can take place. Additionally, NASA said that all indications point to the success of SpaceX’s Flight 3 demonstration, which involved moving liquids between two tanks on the same starship.

Prior to executing a Ship-to-Ship propellant transfer demonstration in 2025, SpaceX is working on developing docking mechanisms, navigation, disconnects, and hot gas thrusters—all of which are highlighted on this chart.

SpaceX would launch two Starship full stacks from Starbase as part of this last demonstration mission. First to launch and enter orbit would be the target, a demonstration for the depot. The second Starship to launch in this demonstration, the chaser, would then launch in order to catch up to the target, navigate actively to it, and show off a propellant transfer. Following the mission, both ships would execute a deorbit burn.

With the sections ready to be stacked, Starbase has already started construction on a second tower.

An overview of the SpaceX mission was given, showing how this mission is supposed to operate. Such a mission would probably include two full stacks of Starships on both of the Boca Chica Starbase’s pads. Although one of these pads has already been put into service, the other is still under construction and is not anticipated to be completed by the end of the year.

Kshatriya states that SpaceX is currently hopeful that, once both ships are docked in this scenario, the propellant transfer will start with the firing of some settling thrusters due to the pressure difference between the two. He does, however, also hint that if things don’t work out as planned, pumps might be needed.

Get ready for flight four.

SpaceX is getting ready for the fourth Starship Flight Test in the interim. Booster 11 and Ship 29 are currently back at the Starbase Production Site completing final preparations for a possible launch, wet-dress rehearsal (WDR), integration, and rollout of the vehicle.

Ongoing maintenance is being done on Ship 29’s thermal protection system. For reentry from LEO, the tiles are necessary to endure the intense heat. While Starship 28 made it this far in the most recent flight test, a heavy roll in the ship’s trajectory caused SpaceX to lose attitude control, which ultimately led to the vehicle’s loss. As a result, the system could not be fully verified.

In the Mega Bay facility, booster 11 is presently being stored while it awaits its hot staging ring. Exhaust can escape during the Starship staging maneuver thanks to the hot staging ring. Booster 11’s designated hot staging ring is kept outside of the production facilities; NSF’s Mary (@bocachicagal) noticed it.

A number of road closures were also announced by Cameron County; these may be connected to upcoming Starbase testing. The following week is set aside for a rollout and a test closure. Highway 4 will close from 7 p.m. on April 29. me. and eleven p.m. m. to enable a car to be rolled to the launch site in local time. Tomorrow, a closure starting at 7 a.m. me. till 7 p.m. m. will enable testing activities that are not flight-related.

Given the duration constraints, SpaceX is more likely to want to push Ship 30 or Booster 12 testing ahead of the fourth Starship flight campaign, even though this may obviously relate to the upcoming flight stack.

The strategy that SpaceX used in the second flight campaign, when Ship 29 was tested ahead of the second stack’s flight, is comparably similar to this one. By using this strategy, a Spin Prime test was finished before the flight campaign.

NSF is aware that, with regulatory and technical readiness almost finished, the fourth Starship Flight Test is still scheduled for the first two weeks of May. Before SpaceX can apply for a modification to the launch license required for Flight 4, it must first complete a regulatory mishap investigation into the issues that occurred during Flight 3.

Lead Image: Starship Full Stack, courtesy of Mary (@bocachicagal).

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