SpaceX Awaits Regulatory Approval, Preparing for a Potential WDR

SpaceX is making significant progress in its Starship development program, with preparations underway for a Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) for Booster 9 and Ship 25. The company has been stacking and destacking Ship 25 off Booster 9, with recent work focused on a photo opportunity involving a Cybertruck towing a Raptor Vacuum engine. A Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) was issued, indicating the possibility of a WDR as early as October 17th. A WDR involves fully loading the vehicle with propellants and running through a countdown, ensuring all systems work correctly before detanking.

Meanwhile, Ship 26 is undergoing testing after being loaded with propellant. Although not expected to fly, plans can change, and SpaceX may use the upcoming road closures to test Ship 26 again. Future vehicles in the pipeline include Booster 10, which will undergo engine purge system modifications before static fire testing, and Booster 11, which has been fitted with larger purge tanks and new engine section vents as part of an upgraded fire suppression system. Booster 13’s Liquid Oxygen (LOX) tank has been stacked, awaiting the stacking of the Methane tank.

Ship 28 is still undergoing modifications and outfitting for a static fire while sitting on the engine install stand. SpaceX is placing emphasis on improving the heat shield of Ship 28, ensuring its survival during reentry. Ship 29 has completed three cryogenic proof tests with the ship thrust ram stand, simulating the forces experienced during cryogenic temperatures. SpaceX continues to build new ships, with Ship 32’s nose cone being stacked onto its payload bay.

At Masseys, SpaceX is conducting various tests, including a burst test on S26.1, a combination of a booster forward section and a ship aft section. The purpose of this test tank remains unclear. Test article S24.2 is a payload bay used to test the design before it is flown. The elliptical dome test tank (Edome) is being used to test a simpler, flatter dome design, and a modified aft section from Ship 27 is being used for testing the latest engine shielding.

With a WDR on the horizon and potential testing for Ship 26, the launch of the second full-stack Starship seems closer than ever. SpaceX’s progress in developing its Starship program showcases its dedication to pushing the boundaries of space exploration and its commitment to innovation in the field. As SpaceX continues to refine its designs and conduct thorough testing, the future of space travel and exploration appears more promising than ever before.

(Image credit: Sean Doherty for NSF)