science

SpaceX was producing boosted parts for the Starship Super Heavy before the first stack

SpaceX is busy producing dozens of steel rings for Starship’s first Super Heavy booster, which CEO Elon Musk says could take “a few weeks” to assemble.

More than twice the height of the Starship’s main fuel tank and engine section, the incredible Super Heavy boosters will stand an incredible height of 70+ meters (230+ feet) once complete – the same height or longer than the two-stage Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy rocket. Unlike the Starship, the Super Heavy will not have a conical nose section and will be built – like spacecraft tanks – entirely of simple steel rings.

Each with a diameter of 9 meters (~ 30 feet) and a length of 1.8 meters (approximately 6 feet), SpaceX will need to stack about 38 of those steel rings to complete the Super Heavy fuel tanks, interstages, and engine section. Impressively, SpaceX is making so much progress in building subsections so heavy that it will likely wait for the start of the first boost batch until the facility (“High Bay”) is long enough ready to be stacked.

SpaceX is producing dozens of steel rings to assemble the Starship’s first Super Heavy booster. (NASASpaceflight – bocachikagal)

Thanks to the hand-affixed stickers on each ring set and the watchful eye of local resident and photographer Mary (also known as BocaChicaGal), no fewer than six confirmed sections of the first Super Heavy (SH1) booster have already been spotted at Boca Chica. The length of the episode ranges from two to four episodes, and the first of those episodes was spotted on September 22, followed by another clip on the 28th.

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The first Super Heavy episode was spotted on September 22. (NASASpaceflight – bocachikagal)

Within the first few days of October, that doubled to four, five and six confirmed piles, plus many more likely candidates who had labels hidden from publicly available views. Additionally, Musk’s recent observation that his Super Heavy boosters’ liquid oxygen tank would have “linear boosters” – also known as strings – meaning that three sets of five loops with said messengers were also candidates for Super Heavy # 1.

Assuming one of these three five-ring combos is reserved for the first functional spacecraft nose section, SpaceX may already have over 30 Super Heavy episodes – out of a total of ~ 38 – awaiting completion of the High Bay construction.

The height of SpaceX’s raised Boca Chica Bay is about 80 meters (~ 260 ft), which is a closed gantry crane that will be used to stack and equip Super Heavy boosters – the final steps of production. SpaceX and its contractors began building the soaring bay in early July, and Musk says the massive building is “a few weeks” away from completion. As of October, the structure is basically complete, as are the wall cladding. Almost half of the building’s roof is also complete, leaving a small amount of work remaining before powering, air conditioning and plumbing is all that remains.

Not surprisingly, SpaceX’s CEO also says that the elevated bay will eventually be equipped with a “gigantic gantry crane,” although the enhanced Super Heavy stacking will likely start sooner. In the meantime, there’s a good chance that SpaceX will start piling up Super Heavy subsections in the existing Starship Bay, and hopefully leaving a few large piles in High Bay to complete the first booster.

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Phil Schwartz

"Food expert. Unapologetic bacon maven. Beer enthusiast. Pop cultureaholic. General travel scholar. Total internet buff."

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