So, we are getting closer to the moment of truth, to one of the key stages in the development of astronautics. The prototype of the world’s first reusable super-heavy space accelerator Super Heavy BN3 is assembled, removed from a high assembly hangar, and delivered to the launch pad of the Starbase cosmodrome in Boca Chica.
Elon Musk in his twitter shared with subscribers photos of this historic moment. And I must say that it looks amazingly large. The giant Super Heavy launch vehicle will be powered by 32 Raptor methane engines. We have seen that only three Raptor engines work in the test «jumps» of the Starship prototypes. Now multiply that by 10! This colossus was created to launch the Starships into space, which will again deliver a man to the moon, and future Martian colonists. The total thrust of the booster will be more than double that of the Saturn V Moon. But before that, a series of test flights will take place. And there is a possibility that the first orbital flight of the Starship — Super Heavy system will take place this month. However, it should be noted that the test product BN3 will not fly into space. It will be used for ground testing. But, according to Musk, the next prototype, BN4, will make the historic flight expected by everyone.
In parallel with the assembly of the Super Heavy BN3 (and BN4) prototype at the Starbase cosmodrome, the construction of a launch pad and a servicing tower for the Starship — Super Heavy system continues. Moreover, the giant tower under construction will have to take over the function of catching the returning Super Heavy booster. That is, in addition to the delicate precision of the landing, a strong shock-absorbing system is also needed, which will take the weight of the booster in the final seconds of its landing.
SpaceX decided to stop at the technology of «catching» the booster at the final stage of its landing, and not to create its own landing supports. How much this decision will justify itself, we will see in future tests. But no one has ever done anything like this on Earth. Just visualize a 65-meter Super Heavy rushing towards the ground on the braking Raptor engines, which in the final catches the system of the launch complex. This is not a Falcon 9, this is an order of magnitude larger.
BN4 will be very different from BN3, Musk said. But with the Super Heavy BN3 prototype, a full series of tests will be carried out, checking all electrical and piping systems.
If everything goes according to plan, then maybe even before the end of summer we will see the Starship — Super Heavy flight …
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