While Tesla & SpaceX CEO’s attention is diverted to his new venture and the mission at Twitter, a leadership vacuum was created at SpaceX. Until September, Musk was positive that Starship’s first orbital flight test will happen in November but the current situation does not endorse this estimate anymore.
According to reports by The Information and CNBC, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell is now posted to Starbase to assume the leadership charge for the Starship program. Gwynne is accompanied by Mark Juncosa, the VP of Space Vehicle Engineering at SpaceX to accelerate the Starship orbital launch tests.
Both Shotwell and Juncosa have been working at SpaceX under Elon Musk for more than a decade. Now it’s time for them to move from SpaceX HQ in Hawthorne California to Starbase, Boca Chica, Texas.
200th Raptor 2 Engine Produced
During this transition of leadership at Starbase, SpaceX hasn’t decelerated the development of the core components of Starship. Musk’s space exploration company announced the production of the 200th Raptor V2 engine last week.
SpaceX marks every Raptor engine with the number it was produced on. Interestingly, this time SpaceX added a $ sign before the 200 on the 200th Raptor 2. “Collect 200 Raptors on your way to Mars, GO,” was also inscribed on this engine just for more fun (pictured below).
The 2nd generation of Raptor engines is more powerful but comparably have a less complicated design and plumbing compared to the first generation Raptor engine (comparison photo below).
A Raptor 1 engine was able to produce 185 tons of thrust while the refined Raptor 2 Starship engine is able to exert 230 tons or over half a million pounds of downward force.
Starlink V2 and Starship Development at Starbase
In the meantime, testing and development at Starbase Boca Chica, Texas are consistently taking place. In the last two weeks, Starship 25 has gone through multiple cryogenic pressure-proof tests.
Simultaneously, the fully-stacked Starship 24 (SN24) on Booster 7 also went through multiple cryo tests after every few days. The last Starship cryo test on Ship 24 and Shop 25 was performed on Friday 4th November last week (watch below).
While performing various tests on Starship 24 & 25 simultaneously, SpaceX has gained significant progress on the development of Starship 26, and work on Starship 27 has also been started.
After multiple cryogenic tests in the last two weeks, it was strongly believed that SpaceX will be performing a static fire test on Booster 7 at least but this test was dropped this past week.
SpaceX has designed the Super Heavy rocket booster with a capacity of 33 Raptor engines. In the most recent full stacking on the Orbital Launch Mount at Starbase, Booster 7 had all 33 engines installed.
This might have been a record static fire test with the most Raptors on a Super Heavy. SpaceX performed the first static fire tests on Booster 7 back in September but it was with only 7 engines installed.
Another interesting thing that happened in the last few days at Starbase was the spotting of Starlink V2 satellites. These large 2nd-generation Starlink satellites were stacked the same way when they are loaded as payload into a Falcon 9 fairing and placed inside the Payload Integration Building at Starbase (video below).
Because of their larger size compared to the V1s, the Starlink V2 satellites need more space to be stacked inside a rocket or spaceship payload area.
In an internal presentation to SpaceX employees back in July, Elon Musk demonstrated how Starship will deploy Starlink V2 satellites in low-Earth Orbit (LEO). A shutter below the Starship nosecone has been designed to produce Starlinks one by one into space (watch the video demo below).
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