SpaceX Moon Mission Launch Could Happen Sooner Than We Think

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s moon mission could be launched sooner than people think. The Starship rocket is already being geared with the powerful …

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s moon mission could be launched sooner than people think. The Starship rocket is already being geared with the powerful Raptor engine needed for the lunar journey. If all goes to plan, SpaceX could be sending the first “tourists” to the moon as early as 2023.

A photo shared on a NASASpaceFlight.com discussion forum showed a structure believed to be the next-gen Raptor engine being built inside SpaceX’s Boca Chica Village launch site. The photo was shared by Mary of Texas who goes by the name bocachicagal in the forum.

The Texas launch site is currently home to the stainless steel Starship prototype so the presence of the Raptor could mean that the space agency might be in the advanced stages of completing SpaceX’s rocket to the moon. The sighting of the Raptor coincides with Musk teasing the arrival of the engine and that it will be put into place this week.

“Raptor on way to Hopper. Will be mounted to vehicle next week,” the SpaceX CEO said in a tweet on March 9.

According to a report, once the engine is attached to the rocket, which will be used for takeoff and landing, tests such as ground systems testing, static fire tests, propellant loading and low-altitude hover demonstrations will be performed. The rocket will be tethered during these tests which won’t be announced to the public.

Musk has big plans for the Raptor engine as it will play a big role in the Starship rocket meant to take the first “moon tourists” to space. It will also be significant to the company’s longterm goal of starting a lunar base and maybe a colony on the planet Mars. The stainless steal Starship will launch via the Super Heavy Rocket that is still being developed.

Super Heavy will require around 31 Raptor engines to operate while the Starship can carry about seven. During the testing stage, only a few Raptor engines will be used just in case it “blows up.”

Musk has been working very hard to start his company’s space exploration. It was only last year that he announced that SpaceX is aiming to bring private individuals to space via a two-way flight to the moon using the Starship rocket.

Recently, SpaceX successfully launched and returned the Crew Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS). The space capsule, which went into orbit via the Falcon 9 rocket, is expected to bring NASA astronauts to the ISS in the near future.


SpaceX Falcon 9SpaceX is preparing to test the Raptor engine onboard the Starship rocket. Pictured: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen seconds after taking off during the Demo-1 mission, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 2, 2019.Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

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SpaceX’s Elon Musk says Raptor will be installed on Starship prototype this week

Speaking on Friday, March 8th, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced that the company’s second completed Raptor engine was already “on [its] way to …

Speaking on Friday, March 8th, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced that the company’s second completed Raptor engine was already “on [its] way to [Star]hopper” to – nominally – be installed on the prototype vehicle as early as the week of March 11th (this week).

According to an official SpaceX statement, once Raptor is installed on Starhopper, the integrated vehicle will perform a combination of ground systems testing, propellant loading, static fire tests, and low-altitude hover demonstrations to prove out the brand new vehicle, engine, and facilities. Prior to the final months of 2018, the build site, launch pad, and prototype Starship now preparing for imminent hop tests were little more than empty dirt lots on the southern tip of the Texas coast.

Raptor on way to Hopper. Will be mounted to vehicle next week.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 8, 2019

“SpaceX will conduct checkouts of the newly installed ground systems and perform a short static fire test in the days ahead,” he said. “Although the prototype is designed to perform sub-orbital flights, or hops, powered by the SpaceX Raptor engine, the vehicle will be tethered during initial testing and hops will not be visible from offsite. SpaceX will establish a safety zone perimeter in coordination with local enforcement and signage will be in place to alert the community prior to the testing.” – James Gleeson, March 8th, SpaceX

Prior to February 3rd, barely one month ago, SpaceX’s next-generation Raptor engine had yet to even ignite in its final(ish), full-scale form. Less than two weeks after that, SpaceX’s propulsion team had pushed the engine to the point of damage, quite possibly throttling it above its nominal max thrust and main combustion chamber pressures. According to Musk, Raptor serial number 2 (SN02) will feature moderate changes to mitigate the cause of that damage.

Along the path to hop tests, it’s unclear if Raptor SN02 – following the mild problems more or less intentionally forced upon its predecessor – will be test-fired at SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas development facilities before heading south to be installed on Starhopper. Given SpaceX’s methodical approach to engine and vehicle testing prior to the launch of any of its rockets, chances are good that it will have already conducted a number of basic acceptance tests in McGregor. If Musk is to be taken literally, the second flightworthy engine may already be in Boca Chica, although it’s more likely that it’s simply close to shipping there from either Hawthorne or McGregor.

Meanwhile, in Boca Chica, humans are preparing to feed the Starship Hopper at the launch site. Doesn’t have a Raptor yet, but that’ll soon change. Then some fun with tethered training hops!

📸NSF’s BocaChicaGal here..https://t.co/5vehQHuDekpic.twitter.com/Pux2aDdJMX

— Chris B – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) March 10, 2019

It has not yet been confirmed if Starhopper will initially perform static fire and hop tests with just one Raptor installed, but the sheer power of the fairly compact engine (upwards of 200 metric tons or 450,000 lbf of thrust at full throttle) should more than enable an extremely heavy prototype to lift off even with 50+ metric tons of propellant onboard. While it could simply be a matter of convenience and efficiency to start integrated Starhopper testing immediately instead of waiting for the completion of additional Raptor engines, the process of testing a thrust structure or integrated rocket with an increasing number of engines installed is a relatively common practice in aerospace. Regardless of its history, SpaceX itself also began its first integrated testing of a Falcon 9 first stage in the same way, starting with one Merlin engine installed and ultimately graduating to 3, 5, and the final 9 engines over the course of a few months of testing.

SpaceX moved its massive Starship prototype from build site to launch pad on March 8th, paving the way for the imminent beginning of static fires and tethered hop tests. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal)

While Starhopper is unlikely to need more than a handful of Raptor engines to exhaust its usefulness, the first orbital Starship prototype – and, even more so, the first Super Heavy booster – will almost certainly end up going through the same process of methodical hot-fire testing before SpaceX even thinks of attempting the first orbital BFR launch. Featuring 7 and 31 Raptors respectively, Starship and Super Heavy will radically push the envelope of both SpaceX’s own experience and the aerospace industry as a whole, potentially becoming the most powerful liquid rocket ever launched if or when the vehicle begins flight tests with both stages.

Check out Teslarati’s newsletters for prompt updates, on-the-ground perspectives, and unique glimpses of SpaceX’s rocket launch and recovery processes

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Elon Musk And Roscosmos Head Rogozin Have Friendly Exchange On Twitter

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin congratulates Elon Musk following the successful test flight of SpaceX’s commercial astronaut capsule Crew Dragon.
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Russian space agency chief took to Twitter to congratulate SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Earlier this week, Musk also praised Russia for its excellent rocket engineering and its best engine currently flying, referring to the RD-180 liquid-fueled engine. ( Dan Taylor | Flickr )

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin congratulates Elon Musk following the successful test flight of SpaceX’s commercial astronaut capsule Crew Dragon.

Also known as the Dragon 2, the capsule carried out its first unmanned test flight to the International Space Station last week. It ended with a safe splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida.

Roscosmos Chief Congratulates SpaceX CEO

The apparently impressed Russian space agency chief took to Twitter to congratulate SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and NASA chief Jim Bridenstine.

“Dear colleagues… On behalf of Roscosmos I congratulate you on the first successful test flight of a new spacecraft,” Rogozin tweeted.

He believes that building alternative space transportation systems that will transport cargo and astronauts ensure the safety and stability of international teams working at the ISS.

“Thank you on behalf of SpaceX! We have always admired your rocket/spacecraft technology,” the SpaceX CEO replied to return the favor.

Elon Musk Praises Russia

Earlier this week, Elon Musk praised Russia via Twitter for its excellent rocket engineering and best engine, referring to the RD-180 liquid-fueled engine. The Russian-built RD-180 liquid-fueled rocket engine is used to power the first stage of the US Atlas V rocket. The SpaceX chief also added that a reusable version of the Angara rocket would be great.

Musk’s tweet was his response to an article published by Ars Technica about Russia’s reaction regarding the successful test flight of the Crew Dragon and its docking to the ISS. The uncrewed mission of Crew Dragon capsule, which means no human onboard, is the first American spacecraft to reach the orbital station since the shutdown of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

Since then, American astronauts were sent into orbit on the Soyuz spacecraft that takes off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. Crew Dragon is built by SpaceX under the guidance of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, America’s space agency.

The Angara rocket family is designed to carry between 3.8 and 24.5 tonnes into low-Earth orbit. It was the first orbit-capable rocket developed by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center in Moscow.

In August last year, Rogozin said that the third launch of the Angara rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome for Russia’s Defense Ministry will be this year. The Russian Federal Space Agency, which is also known as Roscosmos and abbreviated as FKA and RKA, is Russia’s equivalent of the United States’ NASA.

Photo: Dan Taylor | Flickr

ⓒ 2018 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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Tethered test flights to begin in days ahead at Boca Chica Beach

About the same time Friday morning that SpaceX’s unmanned Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully splashed down in the Atlantic after a trip to the …
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Miguel Roberts

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SpaceX crew move their Starship Hopper prototype from thier construction site to the launch site at Boca Chica Beach Friday as workers are seen at the site as construction continues where a future launch has been planned for 2019

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Miguel Roberts

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Large liquid nitrogen tanks are seen at the SpaceX launch site Friday at Boca Chica Beach.

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Miguel Roberts

2019-03-08_SpaceX_3.jpg

SpaceX crew have moved their Starship Hopper prototype from thier construction site to the launch site at Boca Chica Beach Friday as workers are seen at the site where a future launch will take place.

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Miguel Roberts

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A view of SpaceX launch site Friday afternoon with thier prototype rocket on standby.

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Miguel Roberts

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A view of SpaceX launch site Friday afternoon with thier prototype rocket on standby from Boca Chica Beach.

Posted: Saturday, March 9, 2019 12:54 pm

Tethered test flights to begin in days ahead at Boca Chica BeachBY STEVE CLARK STAFF WRITER Brownsville Herald

About the same time Friday morning that SpaceX’s unmanned Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully splashed down in the Atlantic after a trip to the International Space Station, the booster portion of SpaceX’s Starship Hopper prototype was being moved from the construction site at Boca Chica Beach to the launch pad.

SpaceX spokesman James Gleeson said in an email that the Starship prototype was moved to the launch pad in preparation for testing, though the public won’t be able to see the first tests.

“ SpaceX will conduct checkouts of the newly installed ground systems and perform a short static fire test in the days ahead,” he said. “Although the prototype is designed to perform sub-orbital flights, or hops, powered by the SpaceX Raptor engine, the vehicle will be tethered during initial testing and hops will not be visible from offsite. SpaceX will establish a safety zone perimeter in coordination with local enforcement and signage will be in place to alert the community prior to the testing.”

Friday morning marked the first successful mission of the four-seater Crew Dragon, which SpaceX designed to carry NASA astronauts to the ISS.

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com

Posted in Local News on Saturday, March 9, 2019 12:54 pm.

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SpaceX’s Starship prototype moved to launch pad on new rocket transporter

Over the last two or so weeks, SpaceX engineers and technicians have continued to make progress on the company’s first full-scale Starship prototype …

Over the last two or so weeks, SpaceX engineers and technicians have continued to make progress on the company’s first full-scale Starship prototype, intended to support experimental suborbital hop tests as early as March or April.

That work reached a peak on March 8th when the massive Starhopper was transported from build site to launch pad on a brand new transporter that was delivered and assembled barely 48 hours prior. Ahead of the suborbital prototype’s move, work has been ongoing to construct a replacement fairing for the partial-fidelity vehicle, although there is a chance that the new BFR-related stainless steel sections being assembled could be the start of the first orbital Starship prototype.

Space X Boca Chica Site Aerial Photography Update March 03, 2019 @elonmusk@SpaceX 🚀#SpaceX#starhopper#Bocachicapic.twitter.com/lKLHnlOdWr

— RGVAerialPhotography (@RGVaerialphotos) March 3, 2019

Required after improper planning destroyed Starship’s original nosecone (or fairing) when it broke free from its insufficient moorings during high coastal winds, the replacement has sprouted from sheets of metal into a far more substantial structure in barely two weeks. Designed as two integral parts of a suborbital Starship prototype, the upper section (i.e. fairing, nosecone, etc.) is predominately a passive aerodynamic structure with no major active functions, thankfully meaning that the first article’s accidental destruction was a relatively minor loss.

Starship test flight rocket just finished assembly at the @SpaceX Texas launch site. This is an actual picture, not a rendering. pic.twitter.com/k1HkueoXaz

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 11, 2019

In fact, it’s entirely possible that the fairing’s demise has had a minimal impact on the commencement of hop tests, and may have even been a net-good for the program given some visible differences between Starship fairings #1 and #2. Despite the fact that the first fairing was destroyed in late January and a comment from CEO Elon Musk indicating that it would trigger a delay of a few weeks, SpaceX did not begin to assemble its replacement until February 21st, a full month later. Over the course of those 30 or so days, the company’s propulsion team simultaneously began hot-fire tests of the first full-scale Raptor engine, ramped thrust and chamber pressure from roughly 40 to 100 percent, and ultimately pushed the engine to the point of damage around the second week of February.

Work on the primary structure of the Starship prototype also proceeded apace, fleshing out the brute-force steel vehicle with the beginnings of serious avionics and plumbing and more or less completing the structure of its liquid oxygen and methane propellant tanks. SpaceX workers also rapidly expanded and built-out Starship’s prospective hop test launch pad just a few thousand feet distant, installing tank farms, piping, water deluge hardware, and building an actual concrete ‘pad’ with umbilical connection ports and attachment points for the ship’s three fin-legs.

On March 7th, Starhopper’s replacement fairing was lifted onto a concrete work stand, where curved sections will begin to be attached. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal)

Welding and assembly of the replacement nosecone began around February 21st, rapidly growing from a few sheets of steel to a nearly-complete barrel section measuring about 9m tall and 9m in diameter (30ft x 30ft). Intriguingly, the new fairing appears to be a significant departure from the structural composition of its predecessor, utilizing far thicker sheets of stainless steel joined by uninterrupted width and lengthwise welds. Compared to the first fairing’s dependence on extremely thin (nearly foil-like) steel sheets and a separate internal framework of metal bars, Starship fairing V2 appears to be easily capable of standing under its own weight and then some. While largely passive, it’s likely that once the structure is complete, some level of additional avionics (and perhaps cold or hot-gas maneuvering thrusters) will be installed inside.

Heres a close up of the launch site. pic.twitter.com/Q32SHjUH8F

— RGVAerialPhotography (@RGVaerialphotos) March 4, 2019

U-Crawl

Keeping in the practice of dramatically lowering costs by prioritizing consumer off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware solutions wherever possible, SpaceX has purchased or leased a quartet of (likely used) crawlers for the purpose of transporting Starship between the company’s South Texas build, launch, and landing sites. Built by a European conglomerate known TII Group and owned by US-based Roll Group, SpaceX’s four crawlers – coupled to form a duo of larger crawlers – should be more than capable of transporting anywhere from 500t to 1000t or more, easily supporting Starhopper and/or Starships and Super Heavy boosters.

SpaceX accepted delivery of a quarter of crawlers on March 6th and immediately coupled them and began installing massive steel beams to form a Starship transporter. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal)

Rather than spending huge amounts of money to develop or contract out a custom-designed crawler or transporter solution for BFR, SpaceX appears to have simply purchased off-the-shelf hardware and affixed them with heavy steel structures capable of securing and supporting Starhopper during transport. Within 24 hours of the crawler arrivals, those beams were installed and the transporter had been moved underneath Starhopper and attached to it before quite literally jacking the massive ship off the ground, allowing technicians to weld additional structures to the tips of its three legs.

The latest addition to SpaceX’s fleet of rocket transporters, March 6th. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal)

Last but not least…

Perhaps most curious of all, Starhopper’s replacement fairing was recently joined by the start of work on a separate barrel section that appears to be nearly identical. Assuming the presumed fairing is, in fact, a fairing-to-be, the combined height of the two barrel sections would already make it significantly taller than the original nosecone, and the beginning of the conical taper has yet to appear on either assembly. This could generally mean one of two things. First, the new fairing could make Starhopper much taller than its short-lived predecessor. Second, SpaceX could be planning to begin (or even complete) hop tests without a fairing, in which case the presumed fairing and its slightly younger twin could actually be the beginning of a higher-fidelity Starhopper or even the orbital Starship prototype hinted at by Musk earlier this year.

While far less likely than the first option, the latter alternative is further supported by the fact that visible work has begun on some sort of tapered or curved steel complements to the new sections in work. While they certainly could be the beginning of the fairing’s tapered cone, the latest segments only loosely resemble the start of a gradual curve. Instead, they look similar to the steel segments of several giant tank domes that were assembled, welded, and installed inside Starhopper last month.

One of the latest curved sections of welded steel, March 7th. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal
Meanwhile, giant 9m-diameter tank domes are being assembled and welded together a few hundred feet away from Starhopper. (NSF – bocachicagal)

On March 8th, SpaceX began the transport of its first full-scale Starship prototype at the same time as CEO Elon Musk indicated that the first flightworthy Raptor(s) would be delivered to South Texas and installed on the hop test article as early as next week (March 11-17). It’s now looking increasingly likely that any replacement fairing that may or may not be under construction might not be ready for installation on Starhopper before SpaceX begins integrated static-fire tests and maybe even low-altitude tethered hop tests.

“SpaceX will conduct checkouts of the newly installed ground systems and perform a short static fire test in the days ahead,” he said. “Although the prototype is designed to perform sub-orbital flights, or hops, powered by the SpaceX Raptor engine, the vehicle will be tethered during initial testing and hops will not be visible from offsite. SpaceX will establish a safety zone perimeter in coordination with local enforcement and signage will be in place to alert the community prior to the testing.” – James Gleeson, March 8th, SpaceX

pic.twitter.com/o6F0hhfme2

— SPadre (@SpacePadreIsle) March 8, 2019

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