Starship updates: New Flight 4 schedule, watch full stack test, developments at Starbase, more

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SpaceX’s orbital launch site in Starbase, Texas had a tough work routine this past week with multiple operations going on simultaneously.

The most significant of these developments was the stacking of the Flight 4 Starship (Ship 29 + Super Heavy Booster 11).

Ship 29 completed its 2nd and final successful static fire test at the end of March. The expected Flight 4 orbital launch test date was sometime in May but SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk announced a new timeline last Saturday.

“Probably 3 to 5 weeks,” he replied to a question about the Flight 4 schedule on X. Using the word “probably” still gives us a liquid timeline and not a solid schedule. It can happen in June or can be pushed even further if regulatory approvals and technical issues cause further delays.

“Objective is for the ship to get past max heating or at least further than last time,” Musk defined the purpose and objective of Ship 29 or Flight 4 (IFT-4) Starship in his post on X.

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SpaceX Flight 4 Starship (Ship 29) getting stacked on the Super Heavy Booster 11 (B11) for testing at Starbase, Texas on Wednesday 15th May 2024.
SpaceX Flight 4 Starship (Ship 29) getting stacked on the Super Heavy Booster 11 (B11) for testing at Starbase, Texas on Wednesday 15th May 2024. Credit: SpaceX via X (Twitter).

Flight 4 Starship Updates

Full Stacking

As we can witness in the above still photo, SpaceX shared the precise moment when Ship 29 was just about to be mounted onto Booster 11. The Orbital Launch Tower Chopstick arms lifted the Starship 29 above the height of Booster 11, turned towards the rocket booster, and placed the ship over it.

The round object with hollow walls between the Super Heavy rocket booster and Starship is called the Hot Staging Ring. This ring helps Starship and Super Heavy at the time of stage separation and helps prevent damage from engine fire.

SpaceX tested the full stacking of IFT-4 Starship once again to prepare it for the upcoming launch. Since the launch schedule is flexible and weeks away, Elon Musk’s spaceflight company can perform stacking and destacking of Flight 4 Starship multiple times to test its flight readiness and check for any potential issues.

Video: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shares the breathtaking footage of Mechazilla Chopsticks mounting Starship 29 onto Booster 11 at Starbase, Texas on Wednesday 15th May 2024.
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Thermal Protection System (TPS) Improvements

Earlier this week, SpaceX moved Ship 29 from the High Bay to the Mega Bay 2 after vacating it from Ship 26. Ship 26 is now moved to the Massey’s Outpost testing area.

Before moving it to Mega Bay 2, Starship 29 went through an extensive testing of its thermal protection system (TPS). SpaceX uses thousands of black hexagonal heat-shield tiles to protect the ship from super-high temperatures on re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.

Before moving it to Mega Bay 2, SpaceX engineers were seen removing and re-installing some of the TPS heat shield tiles on Ship 29. Workers used suction pumps to test if the tiles came off and if they still needed to be better installed.

As Elon Musk has defined the objective of Flight 4 Starship, the thermal protection system needs to be at its best to achieve the set milestone.

Screenshot: SpaceX staff tests the installation of the TPS heat shield tiles on the Starship 29 prototype.
Screenshot: SpaceX staff tests the installation of the TPS heat shield tiles on the Starship 29 prototype. Credit: Mary (@BocaChicaGal) / NASASpaceFlight / YouTube (video below).

Starbase Updates

SpaceX made significant progress besides the Starship development at its launch facility at Starbase, Boca Chica, Texas this past week.

A Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane helicopter was used to transport objects from StarFactory to other areas of the factory and Starbase. Two bridge cranes of 70-ton capacity each were also brought to StarFactory this week.

Construction continuously progressed on the Starbase multi-level parking garage and the new office building. Several pre-fabricated sections were installed on the parking garage structure.

A three-ring barrel section of an unspecified version of Starship was moved into Mega Bay 2. This implies that SpaceX is working on producing future Starships inside Mega Bay 2 in addition to the StarFactory. The label on this barrel section said “MB2 Dev Assembly”.

Highway 4 (Cameron County/Boca Chica, TX) went through several road closures this week. These were primarily put into place for Starship movements. Ship 31 was moved from the production site to the Massey’s along Ship 26 which was already moved here before.

If you drive down Highway 4, these two majestic Starship prototypes (Ship 26 and Ship 31) can be seen from the vehicle. It’s the first time that two Starships have been placed at the Massey’s Outpost.

Ship 26 has been put on a static fire stand and is plugged into the new and expanded tank farm at the Massey’s. This indicates that we will witness static fire tests at this outpost location.

Ship 31 on the other hand is put on a thrust simulator stand. This is done to perform cryogenic proof testing on this version of the Starship prototype.

Let’s watch these and more Starbase updates in the video below by NASASpaceFlight.com.

Video: Starbase Updates from the 2nd week of May 2024.

Stay tuned for future updates on Starship and SpaceX, Follow us on:
Google News | Flipboard | RSS (Feedly).

Latest SpaceX News

Iqtidar Ali
Iqtidar Alihttp://www.teslaoracle.com
Iqtidar has been writing about Tesla, Elon Musk, and EVs for more than 3 years on XAutoWorld.com, many of his articles have been republished on CleanTechnica and InsideEVs, maintains a healthy relationship with the Tesla community across the Social Media sphere. You can reach him on Twitter @IqtidarAlii

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