SpaceX CEO Elon Musk works through the holidays for the completion of the most challenging work of Starship’s Dome. He wants to make it ready as soon as possible for the next-Generation.
According to Musk, the hardware is the most challenging part of the construction of the Starship’s primary structure. Its structure including engine sector, tanks, and a fine nose. The very parts cover the spaceship’s body almost. The primary structure of Starship must meet the requirements of every aspect of flight, such as high-pressure propellant tanks, extreme G forces at launch, orbital re-entry, etc.
Elon Musk Works First Starship Prototype (Mk1) Testing Campaign
While the failure was intentional or unintentional, it was never officially decided, the vehicle was overpressured while it was full of fluid oxygen or nitrogen during the first Starship prototype (Mk1) testing campaign. The dome was positioned in the field linking the top tank dome to the cylindrical Starship tank segment and basically shearing off at the welding, dropping hundreds of feet into the air, giving the vehicle a shockwave that smashed many of its steel structure as they consisted of Aluminum foil.
It is possible that the failure of Starship Mk1 was a deliberate overpressure occurrence. It means SpaceX will intentionally push the tanks of the vehicle beyond their limits of design. To assess how structurally sound they were. What is less obvious is whether the rocket exploded before or after hitting its theoretical limit of construction.
The Falcon 9 rocket SpaceX uses pressurized fuel and oxygen tanks of approx. 50 psi (3.5 atm). Probably doubles or triples with localized pressures. In the first minute or two of its launch near the bottom of both tanks. Some amateur calculations from the videos of the Burst Event of Starship Mk1 offer some suggestions. They say that it was pressurized to at least 60-75 psi (4-5 atm) at its upper dome. In other words, the strain on its two lower domes and the tank walls would have been even stronger.
If correct, the unofficial figures suggest that Mk1 did quite well. Given the unparalleled spartan approaches and ramshackle services. The methods used to manufacture and assembly purpose.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk talks next steps after Starship Mk1 prototype suffers a spectacular anomaly during testinghttps://t.co/nouJoES0w7
— TESLARATI (@Teslarati) November 20, 2019
Elon Musk Works On The Most Difficult Part Of The Primary Structure
Musk, therefore, considers Starship’s tank domes possibly to hold “the most difficult part of the primary structure”. Primarily because of the complexity of simulation of light and energy in giant propellant tank doms. Musk previously claimed Starship Mk1 was empty of more than two hundred tons (450,000 lb). Whereas the ultimate goal for the empty weight of the spacecraft was similar to 120 tons. And much of the weight-saving would possibly have to come from lighting up its dumps.
In line with the well-known rumors, Texas ‘ attention on the creation of tank doms was marked in the last month. Or so of SpaceX’s Starship research in Boca Chica. In fact, Musk tweeted himself that he worked in Boca Chica all night long with SpaceX engineers. In an effort to get dome production-ready for Starship’s Mk3. That is the first Super Heavy equipment and many more rockets in the future.
Was up all night with SpaceX team working on Starship tank dome production (most difficult part of primary structure). Dawn arrives … pic.twitter.com/SzyDSYUYOu
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 27, 2019
A Starship tank dome was reportedly sent from Florida to Texas before Musk’s tweet. It arrived earlier this month. In the meantime, technicians have built a new dome. With what appears to be a different integration process involving new parts. SpaceX is currently working on welding the tank domes of Starship. Out of a dozen pre-formed stainless steel sheets together.
Elon Musk Works First Dome Prototype In Just Two Weeks
The steel sheets assembled in the Musk dome possibly arrived in Boca Chica on December 13. Suggesting that SpaceX managed to finalize most of the first dome prototype in just two weeks with a new process.
Since SpaceX removed one of its individual assembly jigs from the partially completed dome. Employees almost immediately started creating new steel parts, starting the process of adding another filling cup. Probably the fourth on-site in Boca Chica. In the meantime, another dome was visible on the 28th in a nearby section of the SpaceX production plants in Boca Chica. In short, SpaceX will soon be able to complete the next iteration of the Starship, an updated and streamlined version compared to Mk1.
Flight is hopefully 2 to 3 months away
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 28, 2019
Known as Starship Mk3 (or SN01 Starship), Musk states it is (“hopefully”) ready for its first flight in February or March 2020 – now only a miscellaneous collection of separate components
Passion is Infectious!
I assume this is the sign of a great leader and I applaud his participation. It’s a method of innovation, Musk being an inventor, among others. It is therefore important that he is interested in. Or perhaps he likes to be directly involved in Starship’s growth. This isn’t just a business issue. I assume he’s there because he’s gotta see what’s going on on the ground and grasp it. He would like to see whether the team works well together.
I assume that their welding methods are the main holdup. Instead of an internal structure with a surplus skin on the outside, they use welds to hold it all together, like most aircraft. What SpaceX is trying to do is new. It is only fair that they undergo a learning process to achieve what they want with new techniques. It could take a while.
But he must see that things don’t work properly!…….. Is this a Fact?
There is a distinction between obstacles and “not perfect” stuff. If Elon goes into a person,
- the things at Tesla and elsewhere go well enough to not split his attention, and b) he is investing himself in the engineering work.
- The reason is something uncommon for the CEO of an aerospace company but it is not so odd to get a restaurant ready for a grand opening compared with an owner’s personal interest in the job. When you have to decide quickly (and spend money), you have the wallet and the power to do it.
Good stuff is rolling along. I figured for the holidays they would split. The Mk3 Starship has known as Starship SN1 (serial number 1).
That has threatened me somewhat. I suppose the nomination scheme will not always be compatible just like Falcon 9 (Falcon 9 v 1.0, Falcon 9 v 1.1, Falcon 9 Full Thrust, Falcon 9 Block 5).
Renaming the Mk3 Starship ‘SN1’ seems to imply they are really confident in the design. Once the Starships have made it past the prototype/testing phase and into the operational flight I would like each Starship to get its own unique name, similar to the space shuttles and naval vessels.
Use an Exoskeleton
SpaceX seems to be using the same methodology that Tesla is using with the CyberTruck. Use an exoskeleton as part of your main overall vehicle design strength. Work outside in rather than inside out.
It especially makes sense on a rocket, because every kilogram you save by making the tank and hull integrated into the same structure without any kind of skin or frame is another kilogram you can loft into space.
The Space Shuttle external tank operated with a LOx ullage pressure of 25 psi and LH2 ullage pressure of 38 psi. Ullage pressure is that within the internal tank space above the liquid propellant level. A certain ullage pressure is necessary to ensure sufficient inlet pressure at the turbopumps to prevent cavitation.
Never Flight Worthy?
Do you remember Starhopper? Musk/SpaceX takes the shortest path to production. And if that means doing flight tests with ugly then that’s not an issue.
MK1 was never going to fly. Its construction was not up a flight-worthy standard. MK3 already shows a vast improvement in construction quality. But reality suggests that MK3 won’t fly until mid-year at the earliest. When Musk makes a prediction, you immediately know that you have to add at least three months to it.
There’s still some learning curve, associated with improvements in construction techniques and facilities. But 2-3 months seems too optimistic/aspirating. I will estimate that at least six months will be taken for Starship Mk3 to complete the test.