What’s the trick behind SpaceX’s Starbase? Booster 4 getting ready for static fire!

This episode is sponsored by Surfshark. From Dirt hill to orbit? How is SpaceX building all the
infrastructure needed for a Starship orbital launch?How does it work? How is all of it connected. If you’ve asked yourself some or all of these questions
before, this one will be very interesting for you!Let’s find out!My name is Felix, and I am your host for
today’s episode of What about it!?And as always, there’s been a lot going on in the
space industry lately, so let’s dive right in!Starbase InfrastructureToday we’ll continue what we started last time. We’ll pick one topic and explain
it as best as we can. This time we’ll take a detailed look
at the SpaceX Starbase launch site. Stage Zero. The place where we might actually
leave our planet to settle on another
one in the not-too-distant future. So, this is it. Mauricio has taken the best pictures by
far of what SpaceX is doing in Boca Chica, Texas. Starbase, as SpaceX has named the site, is a development
and test facility for SpaceX’s Starship. Also known as the South Texas launch site or Boca
Chica launch site, Starbase essentially is
a private rocket development and launch site. Located approximately 32 kilometers east of
Brownville, Texas, the site’s primary focus
is to develop, test, and fly Starships,SpaceX’s next-generation fully
reusable mega-rocket. The rocket consists of two stages. The first stage, known as Super Heavy to the public
or just booster to Starship fans, is a 69
meter tall and 9-meter wide booster stage. Currently outfitted with 29 and later
even with 33 SpaceX Raptor engines,this booster stage will have more than double the
thrust of the Saturn V Apollo Moon rocket,the most powerful rocket to
ever fly to Space so far. The second stage, known as Starship or just
Ship, is a 50-meter tall second or
upper stage weighing roughly 120 tons. Its most revolutionary feature
by far is reusability. Where booster stages have been flown, landed,
and reused by SpaceX before on the
Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets,an upper stage has never been reused before. Ever. SpaceX’s Starship is
supposed to do just that. Fly to orbit, deploy a payload or deliver Astronauts
to LEO, Moon, and Mars and then return
back to Earth, reenter the atmosphere,fall down like a skydiver controlled by
its four large flaps and then flip back
to a vertical position and land. Sounds simple in theory. But if you add the
second crucial ability of SpaceX’s Starship
on top, it gets a lot more complicated. Fast and full reusability. The plan is to
use Starships like commercial airplanes. Fly, land, refuel and fly again
in quick succession. Most of my regular viewers will already know this. From here on it gets complicated. Sit back and relax. Today is all about
explaining the big picture!And as said in the beginning, today
we’ll focus on the launch site. One of two SpaceX sites in Boca Chica,
it’s where the action happens. This is where all the testing happens, and today
I’ll take the time to explain to you how
all of what you see here plays together. How it connects, what it’s for, and why
SpaceX is building this as they do. First of all, let’s put some labels on things to get a
general overview of what’s where and how it connects. We can divide the site roughly into three parts. All the way, on the right, we have the
Suborbital part of the test site. Here you can find one of two tank farms. This one is the older one of two on-site, and it’s
been one of the first things SpaceX built here. It supplies suborbital test flights with
fuel, Nitrogen, Helium, and water. All those commodities are needed to
get a Starship off the ground. We also have two suborbital test pads. This is where all the pressure tests and launches
have happened so far, and it’s about to change. For example, SN3, one of the earliest test candidates,
had a structural collapse here. Or test tank SN4, which had a problem
with the fuel quick disconnect. These suborbital pads have seen
lots of failures in the past. But they’ve also seen incredible milestones. SN5 & 6, which came directly after those
dramatic failures and flew in
August and September of last year,showed for the first time that SpaceX
was on the right track. SpaceX’s Raptor. A full-flow staged combustion engine
flew for the first time in human history. And to be able to control these flights, SpaceX
added a Control Center to the site. Back then, many were wondering why SpaceX was building
it right next to the Suborbital pads. Now we know more. Those pads will soon be decommissioned
and only used for minor pressure tests at max. The suborbital flight phase is almost over,
and it’s currently unknown if the suborbital
pas will ever be used for flights again. Of course, SpaceX also needs some infrastructure
not directly related to igniting a rocket. For example, there’s a ground support equipment
bunker and a desalination plant for water. Freshwater is a problem on-site, as it’s not connected
to the main water pipes coming from Brownsville. SpaceX has to produce its own fresh water on site. The next central part of the Launch site
is used as an assembly and storage area
right now, and this has a reason. A few months ago, all this looked very different. This picture, for example, was taken by Mauricio from
RGV Aerial Photography on November 28th of 2020. As you can see, the site has changed
tremendously in under a year. Back then, the center of the site was dominated
by a large concrete square. The Starship landing pad. Other parts, like almost
everything to the left of it, were still missing. The reason? Different task. Back then, everything evolved around
the high-altitude flight tests. Between December 9th of 2020 and May 6th
of 2021, five Starship prototypes flew. SN8, 9, 10, 11, and 15. All of them lifted off,
did their ascend, transitioned to their horizontal
skydive descent, and tried to land. Only one of them succeeded in not
exploding after the landing. SN15. And all this is part of SpaceX’s
iterative design process. It basically means that you build
a rudimentary design idea. SN8. You try it out. You fail. You fix the problems and try again. SN9. You fail with a different problem. You fix and try again with SN10 and so on until
SN15 was able to accomplish the complete task
from ignition to landing and engine shut down. This is different from what it usually looks like,
as SpaceX is not building a traditional rocket. Even Falcon 9, which is already partly reusable
by landing the first stage booster, is different
from what Starships are supposed to do. So, SpaceX is forced to try out
its ideas over and over again. This way, they’re able to build something
that’s never been made before. A fully reusable Launch system, capable
of swift turnaround times. Step by step and idea by idea. Starships are not designed, built, and flown. The concept is perfected more and more
with each succeeding prototype. Next up are the orbital launch site, Mechazilla,
orbital fuel farm, a status update on Ship
20 and booster 4, the latest test dates,and a very important announcement
for you, so stay tuned!It’s worth it!The Wai Family needs your support!Give the video a like, subscribe and share it with
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algorithm that you appreciate the content!Looking for a more direct way of support?Become a Patron or YouTube member by clicking
the join button right under the
video and get some awesome percs!Gain access to our Discord Server where you can meet
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or cap and look as awesome as you feel!We also have a brand new sub-channel,
called WAI Plus. More WAI, more Starbase and more space enthusiasm!The link is in the description,
subcribe, and ring the bell!This brings us back to our overview map and
our last major part of the launch site. The orbital launch site. The landing pad is
not even visible anymore, only five months
after the last high-altitude flight,because SpaceX is now planning for the next
chapter in their development plan. Orbital flights. And you can see it
by just looking at the picture. The left side of the launch site has a much
bigger infrastructure in place by now. Orbital Starships will have no legs to land on. In this video taken by Kevin Randolph,
aka Chief, our second photographer
on site at Starbase on November 3rd,you can see the latest progress on what’s
called the orbital integration tower
or Mechazilla by Starship fans. I am talking about the massive 140-meter
tall tower here in the center. Its purpose is to launch and catch Starships
and Super Heavy boosters. SpaceX’s plans have changed often since
the project was first announced. And it arguably got crazier and crazier over time. Besides wanting to land a rocket stage
again, which by the way, has never been
done by anyone except SpaceX before,they also want to do it with the second stage
and on top of that without any legs. SpaceX basically moved the legs to this tower. Those rocket catch arms here, also known as
Chopsticks, will try and catch a rocket booster
and then a Starship out of mid-air. As depicted by Tijn M here,the plan is to use the catch arms to grab booster
and Starship while they approach the launch tower
and then use the same system to stack themon the launch mount and on top of
each other and relaunch them. On our top-down view, the launch tower,
including the catcher arms and a quick
disconnect arm, can be seen hereand the orbital launch mount, from which the orbital
flights will launch, can be seen here. And the project is not yet finished, even though
Musk recently stated that an orbital launch attempt
could happen at the end of this month. Luis and Chief were able to take some
fascinating pictures recently. Over the past few days, SpaceX has been busy attaching
more and more actuators to the catch arms. These are some of the locations in which
the arms will be able to move. As stationary as they might look now, they will
be more like robotic arms in the end. Able to move in all sorts of different locations
to accomplish stacking and catching tasks. In this picture taken on November 2nd by Luis,
you can see what I’m talking about. On the left, we have the suborbital tank farm and booster
3 still sitting on one of the suborbital pads. Next to it, we have Ship 20 and Booster 4 almost
ready for the first orbital flight. Number 3 is the orbital fuel farm. Look at the size difference compared
to the suborbital fuel farmand lastly, we have the launch tower,
including the orbital catch system. The infrastructure needed for the orbital flights dwarves
anything needed for suborbital flight tests. As seen from the ground by Chief on November
3rd, SpaceX is in the final phase
of assembling the orbital fuel farm. The last GSE tanks are being
connected to the system. This is where it’s located in the grand scheme. The capacity is estimated at around 2
to 3 back-to-back orbital launches. Impressive. SpaceX will likely do a test run as
soon as everything is finished here and after
that it should be ready for a flight test. The same goes for Super Heavy booster 4. The
one that will hopefully give the first orbital
Starship the needed speed to reach orbit. A new Raptor boost engine has recently
been delivered to the launch site. It’s unknown when SpaceX wants to do a first static
fire, but it can’t be far off anymore. More and more thermal blankets have been put around all
the subsystems outside the booster’s engine section. What’s very interesting to see is that
even the quick disconnect panel,responsible for establishing a connection
from booster to orbital launch mount
and needed for fueling, control link,and everything else such a booster needs before a
launch, has received a thermal blanket as well. It’ll be fascinating to see what sort
of cover concept SpaceX has for it. Will it be able to close after ignition?What do you think, Starship experts?As always, tell me in the comments!More Booster aero covers have been delivered
to the launch site as well. These will be placed on top of the
yellow thermal blankets and the booster’s
engine section subsystems. Likely not the final design, they’ll
do the trick for a first launch. On a Falcon 9 rocket, for example, Max Q,the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure occurs
at an altitude of more than 8 kilometers and
at a speed of around 1000 kilometers per hour. So, the COPV tanks and other systems on
the outside of the hull are in desperate
need of protection from those forces. The heat from the engines will be a problem too. The booster will do a landing burn to decelerate
when descending down towards the
launch site again after the launch. The heat produced by the center engines
will engulf at least the lower part
of the booster at lower altitudes. All these are reasons for the
still missing aero covers. And finally, we have ship 20 at the launch
site, undergoing static fires. SpaceX has recently installed the two
missing Raptor vacuum engines. So, there is a full complement
of engines installed again. 3 times sea level and 3 times Vacuum. SpaceX also doesn’t seem to bother attaching the
missing Thermal protection tiles at the moment. Likely because some fell off at the last static
fire, and SpaceX wants to wait with fixes
until all the static fire activity is done. So, that’s it. Now you know why and how SpaceX
is building the launch site the way they
are and the status of the two prototypes. It’s less complex than it seems at first. It went through several stages of construction as
SpaceX needed different infrastructure for each step,
and this isn’t the end of the story either. SpaceX plans a second orbital launch mount and tower and
a second orbital fuel farm for future test phases. The report will go on, and we’ll be watching. Last but certainly not least, there’s
one question remaining. #wenorbitActuXSpace has provided us with the
latest test date animation!Thank you, Mathis! It’s currently unknown
if those dates are for static files,but we do have road closures coming up from
November 8th all the way to the 10th,
always from 10am to 6pm local time. So, Monday to Wednesday it is!Fingers crossed for another Ship 20 static fire!There’s one more thing I’d like to point out!If you’ve watched the episode all the
way up to here, chances are high that
you’re a member of the WAI family,and this might be very important for you!I’ll be at Kennedy Space Center in November, and we’ll do
a meet-up there too in Titusville and on November 21st!There’s a Twitter poll running right now to
estimate as best as possible who’s coming. Vote now and let us know if you can make it!A link is in the description!Now let’s have a look at today’s sponsor
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to join more than a thousand spaceflight enthusiasts
and to give me a chance to thank you in person!Today’s team shout-out goes to
Kevin Randolph, aka Chief. Being the second WAI cam operator on-site,
you’re wholeheartedly greeted by the
entire team and the entire WAI family!We hope you have a great time at Starbase,
and we also can’t wait for the barbeque
at Starbase in late November!Chief, you rock!

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