SpaceX prepares for tests leading to Starship’s second orbital launch attempt

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SpaceX is moving forward with its crucial Starship 2 flight test after a spectacular attempt earlier this year that set the company back a bit as it had to rebuild its launch pad and reassess and overhaul several systems on its rocket. Since April’s test attempt, SpaceX has poured concrete at the launch site and installed a new plate-based cooling system to divert heat away from the rocket at launch.

Now the company is ready to see how the rocket stacks up on site as it carried the Super Heavy booster to the pad for pre-flight testing. However, images of the booster shared by SpaceX suggest it will have to return to SpaceX’s manufacturing facilities because it lacks the crucial vents to divert second-stage flames from the tanks during stage separation or the external engine liners.

SpaceX picks up pace toward Starship 2 flight test, moves booster to launch site

So far, July has been a good month for the Starship’s second flight. Not only has SpaceX started pouring concrete on the site, but it also recently conducted a test of the water-cooling deluge system earlier this week. This test was followed by a pressure test of the Super Heavy booster which saw its exterior turn frosty after super chilled liquids were poured into its tanks.

SpaceX has shared more details on its progress for the Starship 2 flight test. In a tweet posted yesterday, the company shared images of the first-stage booster en route to the launch pad. He added that the rocket had been shipped to the pad for “testing”, but did not say what tests will take place. Images of the Super Heavy booster do not show a ventilation system on its top, crucial for the biggest upgrade SpaceX is making to its rocket ahead of the second orbital test flight attempt.

SpaceX will use “hot staging” for the second test to separate the first and second stages of its Starship rocket. Its leader, Elon Musk, shared these changes in a Twitter space where he explained that his company was doing over a thousand upgrades to the rocket prior to Test Flight 2. These include upgrades to the Raptor engines, which are quite complex to operate but offer more power and easier maintenance compared to the Merlin rocket engines used on the Falcon 9 rocket.

Upgrades to the Raptor 2 engine include its hot gas manifold, which handles heated propellant and high pressure oxidizer before they are routed to the combustion chamber to generate thrust. Leaks in this system have affected engine performance, and Musk believes these changes, combined with others, greatly increase the likelihood of Starship going into orbit this time around.

The latest from SpaceX application for Starship Communications in Boca Chica at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lists a start date for the campaign as of the 27th of this month. This window will be open for six months, and the firm will also need approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before its next test. SpaceX has partnered with the FAA in a lawsuit brought by nonprofits that allege the agency acted improperly in its review of the Boca Chica testing site.

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