Friday, January 20, 2023

Is SpaceX Shipping Starship Launch Pad Hardware from Florida to Texas?

In a somewhat surprising report on Teslarati, SpaceX specialist Eric Ralph reports that the company appears to be preparing to ship a huge collection of hardware – including parts of a possible launch deluge system – from Florida to Texas.  Considering that the operations at the KSC appear to be constructing a second Orbital Launch Integration Tower and preparing to expand their Starship capabilities, it's a bit surprising. 

Captured live by NASASpaceflight’s 24/7 Space Coast Live webcam, [that's the live feed whenever you go there - SiG] hardware began accumulating at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Turning Basin on January 12th. Within a few days, four midsize storage tanks, two or three large storage tanks, five high-pressure gas tanks, multiple sections of an apparent launch deluge system, and an unfinished Starship booster transport stand were all staged and ready for shipment. Save for implicit statements from reliable sources, there wasn’t an obvious guarantee that the hardware was all SpaceX’s or headed to the company’s Starbase, Texas factory and launch site.

But combined with the sheer volume of hardware and its privileged presence on NASA KSC property, the last part to arrive – the base of an unmistakable Starship (booster) transport stand – all but confirmed that the destination is Starbase. SpaceX has already shipped hardware from Florida to Starbase multiple times, including a trio of tanks sent in October 2022, which further increases the odds that everything visible is destined for Starbase.

Yesterday, Jan 19th, a barge arrived at Port Canaveral which was assumed to be preparing to load up and leave for Boca Chica.  

Screen capture of NASA Space Coast Live channel done by Gav Cornwell on Twitter.

I have to admit that I'm anxious for Starships to launch from the Kennedy Space Center for the 100% selfish reason that I want to watch them from my yard.  Especially if they achieve the kind of mission cadence that gets talked about.  Still, I'm more anxious to see them fly from anywhere and as soon as possible. If this can speed up operations at Boca Chica, I'm all for it.  

Musk famously said back in 2020 that they were trying to design a launch system that didn't require a water deluge and part of the efforts at the Orbital launch Mount have been to add some water deluge capabilities, but it's not clear to me that their system is as good as or worse than other systems.  Let's face it; as you'll know if you've watched the static fires of Starships,which are an upper stage with less than 20% of the thrust of 33 Raptor 2 engines on a booster, even that has shattered the concrete under the launch mount.  Eric Ralph goes into a little depth on this, pointing out that the system that has been installed in Florida is already far bigger than what has been done in Boca Chica.  

The design of Starship’s first Florida launch pad has already been upgraded to include a giant deluge ring embedded in the ground at the base of the mount. Unusual design aside, the structure is sized such that it’s almost certainly a high-flow deluge system capable of spraying thousands of gallons of water per second.

Twitter user @Alexphysics13 posted this picture of what he said is the water deluge system they believe is being shipped to Texas.  

If something that size, with pipe sections that look to be several feet in diameter, and that's just one part of a system, is going to be installed under the current Orbital Launch Mount, I don't think B7/S24 could fly for six months or more.   We already know their goal is to fly No Later Than March.

Could this all have more to do with Musk's references to buying additional land in the Boca Chica area, the area that was Massey's gun range, for another test facility than to modifying the existing OLM at Starbase? 


  1. I was wondering about that when I saw that the Roberts Road facility spent so long on making base jigs for every segment, rather than making one jig and assembling each section at a time. Now SpaceX can build a launch tower for every facility that they wish to use, or even for use on the old oil platforms.

    Very interesting. SpaceX is playing the long game in spending all their time on getting the system of manufacturing correct before going full in.

  2. If only silica aerogel could be made mechanically robust. Space Shuttle tiles likely are not tough enough either.