SpaceX workers cap Starship with tank dome as Raptor arrivals and hop tests near

Starhopper had its upper propellant tank dome installed on Jan 24. Technicians continue to work inside the craft. (NASASpaceflight - bocachicagal)

SpaceX employees and local contractors continue to outfit the aft section of the first full-scale BFR prototype with a variety of important components, recently culminating in the installation of the Starship hopper’s top propellant tank dome,

Critical to the arrival and installation of its Raptor engines and the craft’s first hop tests, this work continues despite the premature demise of Starhopper’s apparently fragile nose cone (fairing), toppled on January 22nd when fairly mild winds of around 50 mph (80 km/h) encountered the shoddy rigging meant to keep the huge but lightweight hardware on its concrete stand.

As photos and the media fervor that ensued generally illustrate, the nose section certainly was not effectively held to its concrete stand, causing the insufficient rigging to break and the large sheet metal structure to unceremoniously collapse and fold in half under its own weight. While 50 mph (90 km/h) gusts are not insignificant, they are also fairly common, especially when located on the unprotected edge of the South Texas Coast in the middle of the winter.

Put in a slightly more direct fashion, building a complex structure outside without ensuring that it will be able to withstand the region’s average inclement weather would be an embarrassing oversight for even the most basic construction project, no less SpaceX’s first Starship prototype. It’s also possible that local construction contractors are being leaned on to complete an aerospace-ish project they would likely have little practical experience with, in which case run-of-the-mill workplace miscommunication or a failure to double-check work (rigging) could have easily led to the fairing’s demise.

Regardless, what is done is done and whatever lessons were learned the hard way will hopefully prevent a repeat and encourage better workmanship throughout the project.

To Top