Published on December 10, 2023
The Early Days and Testing Phases
A year after its inception, Booster 10 was transported to Massey's test site for crucial cryogenic testing before being rolled back to the Rocket Garden. It wasn't until September that it returned to Massey's for another round of testing, this time involving Raptor thrust simulators.
Surviving four cryogenic tests in total, Booster 10 was then moved back to the Mega Bay for the critical phase of engine installation.
December 4th: A Significant Development
On December 4th, our camera expert John captured a momentous occasion - the installation of a metal ring atop the Super Heavy. This ring is not just any component; it's pivotal for the 'hot staging' technique, a revolutionary approach in rocket separation that avoids the use of explosives or complicated push mechanisms.
Understanding Hot Staging
Hot staging works by fitting the top section of the first stage with a structure that has cutouts, allowing the second stage engine gasses to escape efficiently. At separation, the upper stage ignites its engines, smoothly separating from the first stage.
While this technique has been mostly used in Russian rockets, Starship introduces a critical innovation: the first stage, or Booster, must survive the separation and remain fully functional. This is achieved by heavily reinforcing the hot staging ring, protecting Super Heavy’s forward dome.
Starship's First Flight: A Testament to Design and Innovation
Starship's first flight demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach, with the ring performing its job flawlessly. The new ring installed on Booster 10 resembles the one used in Starship's second flight, indicating that the design met all expectations.
December 5th: Progress and Preparations
With the new ring in place, the rollout of Booster 10 seemed imminent. Indeed, just a day later, a new and improved Booster transport stand was brought into the Mega Bay. This stand comes equipped with proper clamps, signal lights, and possibly a pressurization unit, indicating significant advancements in transport technology. However, it also poses a drawback for enthusiasts: the obscured view of the engines, hindering serial number spotting.
The Next Phase for Booster 10
Booster 10 was soon hoisted into the new stand and emerged from the Mega Bay, marking an end to months of hard work. While many anticipated its direct movement to the Launch Site, the Booster was instead moved to the Rocket Garden. This move suggests that the prototype is ready for its test campaign, likely including one spin prime and one static fire.
If all goes according to plan, this could be its final visit to the Mega Bay, a significant step towards the next era of space exploration.
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