Wednesday, February 28

The race to Mars accelerates: the Starship passes an essential test and is one step away from its first launch

The Starship reusable system is presented as a fundamental piece to achieve some of the more ambitious space goals proposed for this decade. From putting massive numbers of Starlink satellites into orbit for a fraction of the usual cost to getting to Mars.

On the possibility that humans set foot on the red planet, Elon Musk has been changing dates over time. He first talked about 2024, and now 2026. In any case, the Starship has just taken a huge step towards that normal challenge.

The Starship, closer to flying

Before any rocket can take to the skies on its first mission, it must pass a great deal of testing. One of them is called WDR (Wet Dress Rehearsal)which consists of carrying out all the necessary steps for the launch prior to the ignition sequence of the engines.

It is not a simple test. Without going any further, NASA’s SLS megarocket failed the test the first time due to leaking hydrogen, which is why the expected launch of the Artemis I mission was delayed once again. The Starship has faced the WDR test with enormous success.

On January 23, SpaceX proceeded to subject the Starship system (consisting of the Booster 7 rocket and the Ship 24 spacecraft) for the first time to a WDR test. The tanks were filled with their corresponding propellants (methane and liquid oxygen) and counted down as if it were a launch.

Try Starshi's Wet Dress Rehearsal

Subsequently, the propellant discharge process was activated. As the rocket was not expected to use its propulsion system, methane and liquid oxygen were not consumed, so it was necessary to unload them to leave the system “empty” and thus be able to continue with the following tests.

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Now that apparently everything went according to plan, the aerospace company founded by Musk must proceed to carry out a static ignition of the 33 Raptor 2 engines. This test, which does not yet have a date on the calendar, will be carried out with Booster 7 alone, that is, without the S24 ship that shapes the entire Starship system.

It should be noted that Musk says the Starship’s first orbital mission could take place as early as March of this year, so timelines are pressing. The next test should be in the next few weeks, and if successful, you’ll need to return to the assembly area for final adjustments and heat tile installation.

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If all goes according to plan, and the FAA issues the expected launch permit, SpaceX will launch the Starship from Boca Chica and reach space. While the S24 will re-enter the Pacific Ocean, the Booster 7 will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Texas.

Images: SpaceX (one Y 2)

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