After much hardware shuffling, SpaceX stopped at the cone for its first prototype Starship in height and installed a pair of front flaps.
Effectively the aerospace equivalent of a giant shell game, SpaceX has spent the past few months building and equipping multiple prototypes of Starship’s nose cones, seemingly perfecting the design and assembly with actual hardware to the fullest. In the last two or more weeks, the company has scrapped at least two of these prototypes and seems to have officially removed an unfinished prototype.
More importantly, SpaceX has finally narrowed the future cone for the first high-altitude Starship prototype.
Local resident and photographer Mary (BocaChicaGal) first noticed signs of this selection on October 12, when a prototype with installed air curves appeared in a special tent for the production of SpaceX nose cones. An innate prelude to the installation of Starship’s mechanical surfaces (valves), SpaceX fitted the nose cone with valves less than 24 hours later.
After installing the valve, the nose cone was wound into a nearby windbreak, a small assembly compartment that has hardly been used since the completion of the Starship assembly building “in the middle of the compartment.” At present, all indications are that the nose cone will soon be arranged on part of five steel rings in the near future. The two halves of the nose section will then be welded together, while the remaining plumbing and electrical work will be completed if they have not already been.
SpaceX has already partially tested this process with a nose and ring that would otherwise be discarded. Before moving the flap nose into the windbreak, SpaceX moved an older prototype – the first full-height nose node – to Starships SN5 and SN6, the fate of which is unknown.
With the exception of a major anomaly during the inevitable Starship SN8 triple Raptor triple fire test campaign, the first for both the Starship and the engine family, the prototype is likely to be the recipient of the new cone. Elon Musk says SpaceX will install the SN8’s nose cone only after Starship has completed one or more static fire tests with three Raptor engines. According to a slightly older tweet, SpaceX will launch a Starship SN8 static fire, inspect the rocket and conduct a new static fire before clearing it for the first 15 km (~ 10 miles) of flight and parachute landing test.
The first static fire of the Starship SN8 triple Raptor may occur tonight during the test window from 21:00 to 06:00 or tomorrow between 8:00 and 16:30 CDT (UTC-5).
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