Starship Set to Implement Upgrades for Upcoming Test Flight, Pending FAA Approval

SpaceX is gearing up for the next test flight of its Starship spacecraft, following the successful debut of Integrated Flight Test One (IFT 1). The company has made a series of upgrades to both the launch site and Booster 9, pending final regulatory approval.

One of the significant changes to Booster 9 is the switch from Raptor 2 to Raptor 2.1, which uses electric TVC (Thrust Vector Control) instead of the previous hydraulic system. Electric TVC uses electric linear actuators to move the center 13 raptors on the booster, resulting in weight reduction and smoother gimbaling action during flight. This upgrade improves reliability and reduces complexity, as well as eliminates the need for hydraulic power units (HPUs) and a mass of tubing inside the engine bay.

Booster 9 has also undergone upgrades to its Raptors and valves, specifically in relation to methane leakage. Modifications have been made to the methane turbopumps and manifolds to reduce the amount of methane leakage into the engine compartment. The high pressure at which Raptor operates may contribute to the leakage issue, putting extra pressure on the seals. To mitigate this, larger chines with upgraded purge tanks have been installed, along with 18 vents in the engine section of Booster 9 to control methane buildup.

Furthermore, Booster 9 features upgraded engine shielding, a newly designed methane transfer tube with more reinforcement stringers, and four new vents at the top of the interstage to better control methane tank pressure. The flight termination system (FTS) has also been enhanced after a failure during IFT-1, with an additional explosive charge added to the methane tank to ensure a more effective destruction of the booster in case of an emergency.

In terms of the ship, Ship 24 and Ship 25 have undergone various upgrades compared to Ship 20. These include the use of Raptor 2 engines, a heat shield made of tiles, and a payload bay (although it’s currently welded shut). Ship 25, in particular, has received extra vent lines and thicker engine shielding for hot staging protection.

Pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), SpaceX is confident that these upgrades will contribute to the success of the upcoming test flight. The company’s primary objective is to achieve stage separation and ignition of the ship, but any additional accomplishments would be considered a bonus.

Overall, these enhancements to both Booster 9 and the ship demonstrate SpaceX’s commitment to continuous improvement and innovation in its Starship program. The company’s dedication to addressing challenges and refining its technology will undoubtedly contribute to the future success of space exploration.