SpaceX successfully completed Starship’s flight-like fueling and countdown to T -10 seconds also known as a wet dress rehearsal (WDR) test on Monday 23rd Jan. This was one of the major milestones to move a step closer to the Starship 1st orbital flight test expected at the end of Feb or March as previously hinted by Elon Musk.
In a wet dress rehearsal, the rocket and the spaceship are filled with propellants used in a real flight. In a cryogenic proof or cryo test, SpaceX fills Starship and Super Heavy boosters with liquid nitrogen and oxygen.
While in a WDR test, real flight propellants i.e. liquid oxygen and methane are loaded. If something goes wrong and the gases are combusted, a wet dress rehearsal can end in a big disaster, unlike a cryo test. However, the engines are not fired in a wet dress rehearsal.
SpaceX fully stacked Starship 24 (Ship 24/SN24) on Super Heavy Booster 7 for the first-ever wet dress rehearsal of Starship. According to SpaceX, both Ship 24 and Booster 7 were fully loaded with 10 million pounds of propellant combined.
After the success of the Starship wet dress rehearsal, the next major step is the 33-engine static fire test on the Super Heavy Booster 7 rocket. This crucial prelaunch test was expected to happen tomorrow (Friday) but has now moved to no earlier than (NET) Monday 6th Feb.
Cameron County announces road closures when a major Starship movement or event is scheduled at Starbase, Boca Chica. So, tomorrow’s road closure cancellation indicates that the 33-engine static fire test has moved to next week.
The human and robot cameras by the NASASpaceflight.com team recorded the entire WDR test at Starbase. It is interesting to watch the following timelapse video of the entire event as the Chopsticks are lowered, dish antennas turn towards Starship, a massive methane vent, Chopsticks are raised & reattached, and the detanking of methane.
After the wet dress rehearsal, Starship 24 has been destacked and rolled back to the production site at Starbase for final preparations for the 1st orbital flight test.
Chopsticks Installed at Starship Launch Tower in Florida
SpaceX started construction of a similar Starship orbital launch tower at the NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida last year. We reported a construction update in September 2022.
Earlier this week on Monday, SpaceX installed the Chopsticks on this launch tower at LC-39A. SpaceX’s ingenious idea of Chopsticks is already a success at Starbase. These giant arms are used to stack Starship on Super Heavy rocket boosters and will be used to catch Starship and its boosters on landing. If all goes well, we might just witness this in real life with Starship’s first orbital flight test in the near future.
According to local observers, the Chopsticks installed at LC-39A in Florida are smaller compared to the ones in operation at Starbase, Texas. Let’s watch the entire procedure of the Chopsticks installation on the Starship launch tower in Florida.
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- SpaceX ends 2023 with a major Starship Flight 3 milestone — 33 engine Booster 10 static fire test
- SpaceX conducts a successful six-engine static fire test on Flight 3 Starship, next test is expected after Christmas
- Elon Musk’s iPhone wallpaper of Starship’s 2nd launch tells us a bit about his phone preferences
- 2nd Starship launch was a success, it went way beyond stage separation and then missing in space