Saturday, August 21, 2021

Could Be an Interesting Week to Keep an Eye on SpaceX

If you have the freedom to open a browser tab and leave it on one of the YouTube channels that monitors SpaceX in Boca Chica, this might be an interesting few days to do that.  Monday through Wednesday, by which time everything we say here will have changed. 

Since Starship 20 (S20) moved back to the launch complex area, there has been work to prepare it for the series of tests we expect: pressure tests, cryogenic tests, and finishing with a static engine firing.  Teslarati's SpaceX correspondent Eric Ralph said last Wednesday (18th) that the testing might start as early as the next day, but that was plainly too optimistic.  The county's road closure website, though was updated to cancel road closures on Thursday and Friday, and replace them with short duration "intermittent" road closures on Monday (23rd) followed by longer closures on Tuesday and Wednesday with alternate (backup) days of Wednesday and Thursday.  

Screen capture from the Cameron County website. 

S20 returned to the launch complex earlier in the week, and was then lifted onto Test Stand B.  It was held by one of the cranes on site for a few days, and then unhitched.  Eric Ralph adds:

Curiously, after spending weeks modifying Mount B with a series of hydraulic rams meant to simulate the thrust of Ship 20’s six Raptor engines during its cryo proof(s), SpaceX removed all of that extra hardware just prior to the Starship’s second rollout and now-imminent installation on said mount. Regardless of why, that decision likely means that Starship S20 will move directly to static fire testing once it passes cryo proofing. Given that Ship 20 appears to be on track to be the first Starship prototype of any kind to fire more than three Raptors at a time, that static fire campaign will likely be somewhat cautious, possibly beginning with just 1-3 engines and then moving to four, five, or straight to six.

My SWAG here is that Monday's short window for road closures is to move something from the assembly area to the launch complex, perhaps another one of those ground support tanks.  The 5:00 to 11:00 PM road closures starting Tuesday might well be for some of the testing expected. 

Screen capture of Lab Padre's Nerdle Cam - I usually start here and then look at what other views are available.  

Earlier last week, Elon Musk said that their first completed Starship rocket, expected to be S20 and Booster 4, could be ready for its orbital launch debut just “a few weeks” from now – pending the FAA approval.  B4 is currently in the high bay building, although it could move back to launch area during Monday's road closure.  Sorry to say, but I think that's "Elon Standard Time" and the FAA will kill that concept.  As I understand it, the FAA action has to follow the process (Administrative Procedures Act) on this.  The absolute best thing they could do is release a draft environmental review of SpaceX’s orbital Starship launch site, accept public comments for the required 30 days, instantly clear Starbase with environmental approval within a few days of the public comment window, and then approve Starship’s South Texas orbital launch license as soon as the necessary environmental permissions are in hand.  That sounds more like six weeks than "a few" to me. 

We can hope.


  1. Every week is an interesting week to watch what SpaceX is doing.

    They have made boring seem magical.

    "Oh, no launches for a while, we're concentrating on infrastructure." Poof, a 400' tall tower magically appears, while the scale of concrete pouring is only rivaled by the hey-day of missile silo building.

    And if one looks, they are constantly changing things that work, to make them better, simpler, faster to make, cheaper to make, better. Like a multi-multi-multi panel nose cone is now just a simpler multi-segment nose cone.

    It's crazy. And the only way we are seeing 50-75% of what's going on is they are openly allowing us to see what they're doing. No secret squirrel stuff (as far as we know, though the Tesla-Bot was a tad surprising, not quite SpaceX, but Musk wants to use them on our outworld colonies. Fine with me, but we'll see once the 6th gen are offworld, will they want to come back to Earth?)

  2. Beans, I think we are a ways away from the deployment of Nexus-6, so you can relax ;-)

    With the excess bandwidth afforded by my brand-new Starlink service, I can now afford to keep both the main NerdleCam and NSF's "Starbase LIVE" feeds up at the same time. I need to set up multiple monitors for them, though, and just keep them up as wall decoration. You NEVER know when something major is going to happen.