Friday, May 17, 2024

Small Space News Story Roundup 36

SpaceX Stacks Flight Test 4 Starship 

On Wednesday, May 15, SpaceX Starbase stacked the next Flight Test; Starship 29 and Booster 11, on Boca Chica's Orbital Launch Mount and began testing the combination for Flight Test 4. 

Starship stacking is a dramatic and impressive sight. There's a striking juxtaposition of mechanical and natural beauty, for example, as a gleaming silver rocket rises amid shrub-studded seaside dunes. And that 400-foot-tall (122 meters) rocket is bigger and more powerful than any other launch vehicle humanity has ever built.

The stacking follows earlier testing performed separately with Flight 4's Super Heavy and Ship. SpaceX has already ignited the Raptor engines of both vehicles on the launch mount, in common and brief prelaunch trials known as static fires.

Time-lapse, 20 second long video on X here.

Screen capture from that SpaceX video. Image credit SpaceX. 

So Wen Launch? (as the 'net followers say) 

There's no date set and they still have to wait for a launch permit from the FAA. I've heard that will be after Memorial Day (Monday the 27th) before the FAA will grant the license meaning the launch could possibly be before June 1, but "3 to 5 weeks" (from now) is being widely quoted.  Just like it was being quoted around a month ago.

Starliner Slips Again

To reuse the headline from Tuesday, Starliner Slips Another Four Days. I guess the simple "helium leak" is either proving to be too much for the ground crews or the people that said it was a simple helium leak got something wrong. That four day delay was from the original scheduled launch date, today, May 17, to Tuesday the 21st. The latest bump moves it out to Saturday, May 25. As the position of their target, the ISS, moves across the sky the launch time moves earlier. The launch today was to have been 6:16 PM (Eastern - it's Cape Canaveral). Saturday's launch time will be 3:09 PM.

"The additional time allows teams to further assess a small helium leak in the Boeing Starliner spacecraft's service module traced to a flange on a single reaction control system thruster," agency officials wrote in an update today.

NASA also said:

Further analysis of the leak suggests that it's not a huge problem, but NASA, Boeing and ULA want more time to assess the situation, agency officials wrote in today's update.

Something about saying it's no big deal followed by "we want another four days to check that" strikes me as mixed messages. Maybe it's yet another sign of being a graybeard, but sometimes saying Use As Is can be the scariest thing they tell you. 


  1. I wonder how long it will take for "4 days" to be over this time.

  2. Watching on video anything to do with super heavy, no doubt leaves a lot out in regards to just how truly gigantic it is, and its unleashed power 33 maxed out rocket engines are like when seen in real time. It just don't look real watching it on screen lifting off and thru its burn.

  3. Really cool how SpaceX is developing the working prototypes for mass produced EVA suits, going to test on the Dawn flight. They are talking about production numbers in the millions of suits, further how there is built in customization features to make it simple fitting suits to various body shapes and sizes.
    Now thats what you can call getting your ducks in a row.

    1. The whole "We're commercializing space flight" thingy is such a paradigm shift. Mass produced... everything. So very strange and only 40 years behind what it should have been. We're finally getting the space programs that we were promised.

  4. Are the astronauts on Starliner still in quarantine?

    1. Last thing I read was that they were allowed to go back to Houston and see their families. I don't know how "loose" that really is - like if they can only visit through a glass barrier or something.

  5. To think, plans are for a taller vehicle, both stages, so higher payload too. Amazing. Love to see a video of the Raptors gimbaling while its leaving stage zero. Its got to be dramatic with trying to maintain vertical stable flight. Thats one serious momentum arm tip to base.