SpaceX has selected Ship 25 and Booster 9 for the next Starship test flight as launch pad repairs and upgrades continue.
Following the integrated test flight of Ship 24 and Booster 7, which at engine ignition created a “rock tornado” and excavated a significant amount of cement and dirt from underneath the launch mount, SpaceX has been hard at work repairing the launch mount and is now installing a water deluge system.
This will be comprised of a water-cooled steel plate system in which jets of water will shoot upwards toward the engines. SpaceX is already testing this at their Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas.
Raptor test firing into a water cooled steel plate 🔥 pic.twitter.com/oXUp5PGqbf
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 19, 2023
The hope here is that this will be enough to prevent any more damage to the launch site and surrounding areas at engine ignition, to help with this, SpaceX recently installed 2 massive water tanks that more than double their water supply. While repairs to the launch mount and site overall continue, SpaceX moved Ship 25 to the suborbital launch mount ahead of its static fire test campaign, during which they will test fire all 6 Raptor engines. Ship 25 has already gone through cryo-proof testing at their Masseys Testing Facility, which is just West down the road from Starbase.
Another step closer to Mars — the first flight test of a fully integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket pic.twitter.com/SpaHjQELlO
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 27, 2023
While Ship 25 does not feature many upgrades over Ship 24, Booster 9 is much improved over Booster 7. One of the major improvements is the switch from hydraulic thrust vector controls to electric thrust vector controls. This, in combination with all Raptors working during lift-off, should prevent the issues that occurred during the first test flight.
Once pad repairs and upgrades are complete, Elon Musk stated there will be about a month of testing the upgrades before moving Booster 9 to the orbital launch mount for its own static test campaign and eventual integration with Ship 25.
If Booster 9 performs as expected and there are no issues with the launch pad, it will make way for SpaceX to perform test flights at an increased cadence. SpaceX certainly does not have a hardware problem as they have vehicles in various stages of completion from Ship 25 to Ship 29, either complete or very nearly, and up to Ship 35 undergoing stacking operations. On the Booster side, Booster 9 is completed with 2 cryo tests done, and Booster 10 through Booster 12 basically just needs Raptor engine installation. Boosters 13 through 16 are currently in their early phases of construction.