SpaceX Receives Explosives At Starship Test Site As Potential Launch Draws Close

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After the long weekend, SpaceX picked up progress with its Starship rocket in Texas ahead of the third test flight attempt. As of now, Starship might launch in March if all tests before the attempt are successful and engineers can comfortably clear the rocket for liftoff. Footage from multiple local media outlets covering SpaceX’s launch site in Texas shows that the company might have ordered components for one of Starship’s most important subsystems, the flight termination system or FTS. The deliveries follow a de-stack of the rocket at the launch pad, with SpaceX also moving a Starship second-stage spacecraft to its test mount.

Possible Static Fires In Play As SpaceX Potentially Orders Starship FTS Equipment

In order to launch Starship, SpaceX, like other mega rocket operators, has to install explosives on the rocket to ensure that it will destroy itself mid air in case of an anomaly. These systems have a finite life, preventing the rocket operator from installing them at the time of the vehicle’s production. For Starship, this means that momentum for a third test flight might finally be building up in Boca Chica, particularly since SpaceX has also transported the third test flight’s second stage Starship rocket to a test pad.

This pad typically sees static fire tests both before potential launches and as a regular part of the Starship test campaign. Since SpaceX typically confirms such tests almost immediately after they occur, and other Starship tests, such as tank pressurization, take place on the launch pad, there may be a Starship second stage static fire soon.

Starship’s Super Heavy booster, which has also left the launch site, uses 33 Raptor engines tuned for atmospheric use only. The second stage features slightly different engines that are optimized for the vacuum of space, and due to the massive power of its engines, static fires for the Super Heavy typically take place on the launch pad.

An FTS system is installed on both the booster and the spacecraft, and along with Starship’s engines, it has drawn quite a bit of attention to itself during the current test campaign of the integrated Starship stack. SpaceX’s first Starship test flight, which took place almost a year back then, led to the first and second stages failing to successfully separate after several of the first stage’s engines lost their power along the way.

At the point of stage separation, the Starship Super Heavy did multiple somersaults before its FTS successfully destroyed the rocket. A later investigation revealed that the rocket was too strong, and SpaceX’s second Starship test flight in November saw successful first stage detonation after stage separation. The Starship second stage’s FTS also successfully detonated during its coast phase, with SpaceX keeping quite about that test’s performance since then.

A closer look at today’s images shows that heavy duty explosives also made their way to the site, along with less powerful ones that cannot destroy Starship on Earth, in air or in space.

SpaceX followed up the explosives delivery in Texas with a successful launch to geosynchronous orbit from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The launch was the firm’s 16th for the year, and it comes after a record setting 2023, which saw SpaceX become the first firm to complete close to a hundred orbital launches in a calendar year.

It sent the Indonesian state owned Telkomsat’s multi million dollar communications satellite to orbit. After today’s mission, SpaceX is close to completing three hundred recoveries of an orbital class rocket (today’s recovery was the 275th), just as it puts the final touches on the world’s largest rocket in Texas.

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