Elon Musk’s space exploration company SpaceX is gearing up for the first orbital flight test of the Starship spaceship. Musk posted a picture of himself with his son X Æ A-12 with the caption saying “Installing Starship booster engines for first orbital flight“.
This picture (below) is taken just outside the high-bay at the SpaceX launch site at Starbase Boca Chica, Texas. As Musk and his son pose for the picture, the Super Heavy booster prototype can be seen in the high bay and a Raptor engine is just waiting for its turn for the installation.
This rocket booster being stacked in the high bay in the picture above is the Super Heavy prototype Booster 4. SpaceX is using Booster 4 for this orbital flight test after the successful static fire test of Booster 3 last week.
After the high-altitude flight test and a successful landing of the Starship prototype SN15 earlier in May, the Starship program is now transitioning to the next level, the orbital flight tests.
This time, SpaceX will perform the orbital test flight on the Starship prototype SN20 as Elon Musk has previously hinted. Musk has also said earlier this year that SN20 will be fairly advanced in terms of technology compared to its predecessors.
“Next major technology rev is at SN20. Those ships will be orbit-capable with heat shield & stage separation system. Ascent success probability is high. However, SN20+ vehicles will probably need many flight attempts to survive Mach 25 entry heating & land intact,” he said in a tweet earlier in March.
Cameron County has already issued a notice of Highway 4 closure near the Boca Chica village entrance due to the movement of the gigantic Super Heavy Booster 4 prototype from the high bay to the launch pad. This intermittent closure will take place on Monday, 2 August from 3:00 p.m. central time to 7:00 p.m.
Local observers Mary and the rest of the NasaSpaceFlight.com robots and team members are conducting a 24/7 Live coverage of this extremely important event in the history of SpaceX and spaceflight as well (video below).
According to the latest update from the local observer and photographer Nic Ansuini, SpaceX has installed 25 Raptor engines on Booster 4 (BN4) till now.
This is surely going to have 29 Raptors, the one Musk showed the aft section of with complex plumbing and feed system for 29 Raptor engines.
Elon Musk has just posted that the Booster 4 Raptor engine installation has been completed. However, it is not confirmed how many engines have been added to this configuration, the probability is 29 as we have discussed above.