SpaceX has made a lot of progress with the upgrades beneath the Starship Orbital Launch Mount. The focus has returned to completing upgrades to the Orbital Launch Mount, with the installation of a steel plate water deluge system now taking place.
A wave of over 100 trucks of concrete, late last month marked the opening salvo in SpaceX’s efforts, to fill in the hole that was left after, Booster 7’s launch with Ship 24, on the maiden flight of Starship. This was followed by the rollout of the central steel plate, which was positioned close to the launch site, along with a jig that rolled ahead of the plate.
A second wave of concrete trucks then arrived, for the final major pour under the orbital launch mount, with around 300 trucks being utilized, in total during the two waves of deliveries. It did not take long for that massive amount of concrete to cure.
As July 5 saw the jig undertaking a test, roll under the OLM on top of the Self-Propelled Modular Transporter. That confirmed the surface was ready for the steel plate, whose installation occurred just hours later. In this image by RGVaerialphotos, we can actually see all of the parts, that would eventually make up 3 of the 6 assemblies that go between the OLM legs.
In this case, they also happen to be the 3 manifold assemblies. Several sections disappeared and were presumed to be inside the inventory tent. I assumed the 3 larger trapezoid sections, would be part of the center assembly, but I was unsure about this smaller trapezoid on the left.
Measuring these parts gave some hints. This system – along with a faster ignition-to-launch duration for the 33 engines, on the Booster – is required after lessons learned from the maiden launch. “It’s two layers of very thick plate steel, that are also sort of perforated on the upper side, so that you have what is basically a massive, super strong steel showerhead pointing up.
It’s a mega steel pancake. This thing’s a beast,” noted Elon Musk during a Twitter Spaces event. The large central piece of this water deluge system – aimed to avoid a “rock tornado” seen during the first test flight – was lifted onto the jig and then rolled under the OLM.
Before it was translated horizontally and placed into the ground. This plate was lifted and then lowered several times during the night, likely part of fit checks and final work, to create channels for the manifold pipes.
While some standalone tests are expected, the major validation of this system will occur during the Booster 9 Static Fire test. The final parts of the deluge system began to arrive at the pad on Thursday, with notices for two “rolling roadblocks” posted by the local authority.
Almost all rockets use some sort of deluge system, to prevent their own exhaust from damaging or destroying themselves, or their surroundings. A large volume of water sprayed into the space just below a rocket’s engines, can prevent the immense acoustic energy, sound, they produce from wreaking havoc.
A deluge also helps protect launch pad hardware, by allowing some of the energy, in the exhaust to boil and vaporize water instead of eating into concrete or steel. But CEO Elon Musk has infamously stated that, SpaceX is intentionally attempting to build an orbital launch site, that doesn’t need a flame diverter for Starship – the most powerful rocket in history, and it turned out a mistake after the first orbital launch.
Progress toward the second flight of the world’s most powerful launch vehicle, continues to take place at Starbase. With Ship 25 passing its six-engine Static Fire test. That will set the stage for Booster 9 to undergo its pre-launch testing, including Static Fire tests, that will also provide validation of the new groundwork under the OLM.
This wasn’t the only work that has taken place at the launch site of late. With the Booster Quick Disconnect hood reinstalled, and the Ship Quick Disconnect returning. With its plate housed slightly higher on the tower, to cater for the additional height of the stack. The increase in height for what is already the world’s tallest rocket, is related to the extra ring that will be installed atop Super Heavy, starting with Booster 9.
This will allow for hot staging to be employed; Elon Musk’s self-proclaimed late change that will allow the vehicle to “never stop thrusting” during ascent. Booster 9 remains at the Production Site, as part of a growing family of Boosters and Ships. It is not currently known when Booster 9 will roll to the launch site, but given the pace of the water deluge system installation, this event could take place in a matter of weeks.
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