This week at Starbase, we see the SpaceX LR11000 assembled, the rental LR11000 moves to the production site, Blue Origin loses a lawsuit, and Flight 521 takes shape.
Cranes Assembled and Disassembled
This week saw the end of the LR11350 as parts were transported out to Corpus Christi ahead of the next job for the third largest mobile crane in the US! There it will work on the new Harbor bridge project, although it may be back in the future to help with the second launch tower construction. No official word on this yet.
Last week, SpaceX took initial delivery of their LR11000 with a black, white, and grey color scheme. This week saw it completely assembled and erected. It’s expected that this crane will be used during the day to day of operations at Starbase, lifting Starships and test tanks onto the suborbital test stands, helping with further construction, and other similar work.
The yellow LR11000 which SpaceX has been renting on a long-term contract was also brought down ahead of moving to the build site to help with the construction of the Wide Bay. It’s not currently known if SpaceX will continue to rent the crane following the completion of the building work. This yellow crane has been a regular part of the Starbase skyline for some time, so it will be sad to see it finally leave, whenever that may be.
Update on the Blue Origin lawsuit
In indirect Starbase news, Blue Origin has been handed a loss in the courts regarding their lawsuit against NASA’s contract decision. The SpaceX competitor was suing on the grounds of NASA only awarding one contract and for ignoring apparent safety issues with the SpaceX contract. While the majority of the argument was made behind closed doors, Blue Origin has been highly critical of the Starship program, calling it ‘immensely complex and high risk’, which, in true space community fashion, was turned into a running joke online.
Jeff Bezos responded to the news on Twitter by remarking that it wasn’t the outcome they wanted and that he wished NASA and SpaceX the best in fulfilling the contract. This was unexpectedly well handled considering the previously mentioned critical stance Blue Origin had taken. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk responded in his own hilarious way.
Not the decision we wanted, but we respect the court’s judgment, and wish full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract. pic.twitter.com/BeXc4A8YaW— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) November 4, 2021
What this means for Starbase is currently unknown. Starship is the vehicle of choice for NASA returning astronauts to the Moon, and with the lawsuit now over, SpaceX can continue work on the lunar lander variant of the vehicle. This also means that more financial resources can be released to SpaceX by NASA, which in turn, may support further expansion at Starbase to support a more aggressive testing program.
Wide Bay and High Bay Stairs
The mystery behind the stairs that were being constructed at the Sanchez site has been solved. Initially thought to be going to the new Wide Bay, footage from the site shows the modular stairwells being installed within the High Bay. This is to provide an emergency exit for the bar that is at the top of the High Bay, a requirement for any tall structure to be qualified for use.
Last set of stairs now being loaded on the spmt headed to the high bay. pic.twitter.com/lHaWHuBmFD— RGV Aerial Photography (@RGVaerialphotos) November 5, 2021
What this means for the High Bay is a smaller usable footprint of space, ultimately making the High Bay less flexible in future use cases. It would not be surprising to see all future boosters built in the Wide Bay once completed, with smaller Starship vehicles using the High Bay.
Speaking of the Wide Bay, the first level of steel has been installed. With the arrival of the LR11000 to help with construction, progress may improve faster than previously anticipated. The latest footage of Starbase shows Ship 21 sections being stacked, and Booster 5 is not far behind either. A reminder that Starships can only be stacked in the High Bay and the future Wide Bay, due to being too tall for the Mid Bay.
While this last week saw no further testing of Ship 20, new testing windows have been planned for this week. From Monday the 8th of November to Thursday the 11th, road closures starting at 10:00 am and ending at 6:00 pm are planned. Friday the 12th of November has a road closure starting at 6:00 am, ending at noon.
This series of tests are expected to be full static fires of the recently installed Raptor Centers and Raptor Vacuum engines, marking the first time an orbital-ready Starship conducts these tests.
Ship20🚀 pic.twitter.com/IUSPOyKXDL— RGV Aerial Photography (@RGVaerialphotos) November 1, 2021
There is no word on when Booster 4 will begin its Campaign, although recent photos of the Launch Mount show fueling hardware is largely complete. Similarly, further deliveries to the Orbital fuel farm have been seen, clearly showing that SpaceX is preparing the Orbital Mount for the first Super Heavy tests.