BFR Developments

#21
Here's the latest official scoop from the FAA.

It's a 'NOTAM' (Notice to Airmen') issued at 1:22 pm today Texas time, warning fliers of "Space Operations" by SpaceX from Boca Chica beginning at 0900 CDT Monday 3/25 and extending until 1800 CDT Wednesday 3/27.

Radius: 1.1 nautical miles
Altitude: From the surface up to and including 1000 feet AGL
Operating Restrictions and Requirements: No pilots may operate an aircraft in the area covered by this NOTAM
Reason for NOTAM: To provide a safe environment for rocket launch and recovery pursuant to 14 CFR Section 91

I don't know if the 1,000 feet is just an abundance of caution, or whether they really do intend for this thing to fly more than just a few feet in its first tests. Nor do I know if they plan more than one hop over these three days.

https://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_9_1046.html
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#22
(Mar 23, 2019 12:44 AM)Yazata Wrote: Here's the latest official scoop from the FAA. It's a 'NOTAM' (Notice to Airmen') warning them of "Space Operations" by SpaceX from Boca Chica beginning at 0900 CDT Monday 3/25 and extending until 1800 CDT Wednesday 3/27.

Radius: 1.1 nautical miles
Altitude: From the surface up to and including 1000 feet AGL  
Operating Restrictions and Requirements: No pilots may operate an aircraft in the area covered by this NOTAM
Reason for NOTAM: To provide a safe environment for rocket launch and recovery pursuant to 14 CFR Section 91

I don't know if the 1,000 feet is just an abundance of caution, or whether they really do intend for this thing to fly more than just a few feet in its first tests. Nor do I know if they plan more than one hop over these three days.

https://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_9_1046.html

Hopefully all will be well, however a rocket could be considered a Thermobaric bomb (wikipedia.org) should it go horribly wrong which means anything within a blast radius would be considered at risk. Keeping aircraft out of range is a safety measure I'd assume for those aircraft as much as it is the rocket.
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#23
The Starhopper still hasn't flown yet, but reportedly SpaceX has begun construction of a second test vehicle at Boca Chica. This one is said to be an "orbital prototype". (I'm not convinced that I believe that).

Here's NSF's new thread on it:

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index....msg1926416

The livestream cam has moved over the weekend to look at this new construction since it's now known that the Starhopper won't be flying until Monday at the earliest.

https://twitter.com/SpacePadreIsle/statu...9795018752

That camera move initially scared me, since when I tuned in today, the Starhopper wasn't there! It's too big to just move around easily. So had it blown up? Did MR's space aliens steal it?

No, everything's ok. In fact better than ok, if they have started construction on a new and more ambitious test prototype.

Apparently Elon Musk is saying that the orbital test vehicle should be completed this June.

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1083575233423003648

...Elon time, which is probably more aspirational than real, what he wants to do. They haven't even flown the hopper yet and like CC says, the Boca Chica site looks awfully sparse and minimal. At this point it doesn't look like the kind of facility where one would manufacture huge orbital spaceships. (On the other hand, the propulsive hover and landing stuff is technology they have already perfected on the Falcon 9 and that they already understand pretty well. So they may feel safe in looking past the Hopper.)

Regarding the lack of development at Boca Chica, Elon's saying that they are manufacturing at least part of the "orbital prototype" at SpaceX's second plant in San Pedro (the repurposed former shipyard at the Port of LA). The LA components will apparently be shipped to Boca Chica and assembled there.

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1076611280700530688

By the way, if they plan to fly this "orbital prototype" to orbit without the Super-Heavy (formerly BFR) booster, it will be the first Single-Stage To Orbit (SSTO) flight in history. Engineers talk about SSTO a lot, but it's never been done. It probably will only have a small payload if they do it that way, but still...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-stage-to-orbit
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#24
The local sheriff is manning roadblocks keeping people from driving too close. Talk that if anything happens today, it might be a static rocket fire with the Starhopper clamped to the ground and not a flight. So... is anything happening today? I haven't seen anything much on the live-feed, but some observers on the internet are saying that they've seen gases venting from the vehicle earlier and believe that they are fueling it.

Edit: I just saw a big plume of vapor coming from the vehicle on the live-cam, so they are right. It appears to be fueled. Something should happen soon.

Edit 2: Methane flame is flaring from the storage tanks suggesting that they are detanking fuel from the vehicle back to the storage tanks. And some people say that they have seen ground vehicles moving toward the Starhopper. So the preponderance of the evidence seems to be moving towards the conclusion that today was either another tanking and pressurization test or a scrub.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ6Cd9mfldI

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index....=47120.360

Best location for a livecam from Everyday Astronaut here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOm4S8y59Hg
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#25
Chat at least experienced some excitement there with teenage Liam from Sweden and beer.

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#26
The geeks seem to be coming around to the conclusion that what happened today was a 'preburner test'. Basically, it's the system that powers the turbopumps that feed the rocket engines. So SpaceX's engineers wanted to spin up the pumps and test the system that does that.

Or at least that's the latest space-geek speculation about what was observed today (not much, outwardly). Many of these space-geeks seem to be engineers and appear to know what they are talking about.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staged_combustion_cycle

There was a point in the afternoon when a big white cloud of vapor came out of the bottom of the Starhopper. It wasn't accompanied by a bright flare of flame or any loud sounds. It was initially dismissed as lox venting from a pressure valve or something, but now opinion seems to be coming around to the idea that it was the Raptor engine preburners.

Here's a photo of a SpaceX Raptor engine preburner test in a test-stand at NASA's Stennis Research Center in Mississippi, where they design and test rocket engines. Similar white exhaust cloud to what was observed today.


[Image: 300px-SpaceX%27s_Raptor_oxygen_preburner...015%29.jpg]
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#27
The space-geeks are saying that today's test has been pushed back to tomorrow. One says that he saw a broken down LOX (liquid oxygen) tanker several miles away, and maybe that has something to do with the delay. Liquid methane tanker has arrived and is offloading.

Observers say they see lots of activity around the base of the Starhopper and big cables extending up into it. So if the failed delivery of LOX is what caused the delay (assuming there really is one... but I saw it on the internet, so it has to be true!) it sounds like they are taking advantage of the time to do something.

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index....=47120.380

If the Starhopper testing extends beyond Wednesday, the FAA's NOTAM prohibiting pilots from flying nearby will presumably have to be extended.

The sheriffs don't have their hard checkpoint up like yesterday.

Texas sheriffs! I've seen enough cowboy movies in my youth to know how to visualize those words. (Like an early Clint Eastwood spaghetti western.) The horses do seem a little anachronistic at a rocket test site.


[Image: 51lu4LqYeGL._SY445_.jpg]
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#28
A local judge has announced additional road closures for tomorrow (Wednesday) with the option for Thursday and Friday if needed. Again, that would presumably require the FAA to sign off.

Many excellent photos online by a local woman who goes by the internet name of 'Bocachicagal'. She devotes lots of time to it, seemingly every day, chronicling the slow construction of the vehicles step-by-step. Many of her photos are very close up, from right outside the fence. I think that she gets away with it because she's a local resident and has a pass to get through the sheriffs' roadblocks to get to her house. I don't think that SpaceX is bothered either, since Bocachicagal and people like Tim the Everyday Astronaut with their internet followings serve as an unpaid publicity department for SpaceX among the spaceship fanboys and girls. We know that Elon Musk is personally tuned in to that.

Anyway, here's Bocachicagal's video of what's now being interpreted as a preburner test on Monday. It's a rather uneventful 2 minute Youtube video, except for the last ten seconds or so when a white cloud of vapor comes out of the Starhopper. That's it. Probably exciting to the SpaceX engineers if it really was the Raptor engine preburners and they were getting the reams of data millisecond by millisecond that all engineers love so much, but not so much to idle spectators like me.

We wanna see action! Not just a static engine run while the vehicle is tied down either, which is probably all we are going to get for the immediate future. I wanna see it rise up into the air on a pillar of flame, then come back down and gently land.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_conti...10tUrQLKwk
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#29
Wednesday: Road closures just went into effect. As somebody on one of the discussion boards said: "Elvis is in the building."

The livestream cams don't show anything big happening.

here's Bocachicagal's closeup photo of what is happening this morning almost as we speak.

The photo only seems to show one Raptor rocket engine. The operational Starship will have several. But this 'Test Article' (not even a full Prototype) is probably a lot lighter too. Another interesting thing is what appears to be a white lasso around the bottom of the right side landing leg. (It's Texas!) Bocachicagal's photos show that all three legs have them. Apparently hold down ties. They seem pretty lightweight for a static rocket engine test, so maybe they are just to prevent the wind from toppling the thing as happened before to its nose section.


[Image: D2rSQJfXcAoxl5a.jpg]


The white car doesn't appear to be a Tesla! What's up with that??
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#30
Nothing much happened today. They apparently fueled the thing, it sat for a while giving off little puffs of vapor, then there was detanking and workers were seen driving up to the thing again. The local Sheriff's road blocks have come down for the day.

But as reported above, local road closures have been authorized for Thursday and Friday if needed and the FAA has recently (16:48 CDT Texas time) come out with an extension to the flight restrictions lasting through Thursday.

https://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_9_3577.html

So they aren't done with whatever they want to do yet (speculation is a static test fire of the Raptor engine) and there's still something that they want to do that justifies flight restrictions tomorrow. Now that we see that the FAA is extending the flight restrictions day-by-day, it might conceivably go over to Friday too.

The wording in the NOTAM is subtly different than the wording in the first. The Reason for the NOTAM is no longer said to be "Space Operations" and the launch and recovery of rockets. Now it's just "Hazards". The ceiling of the no-fly zone is still 1,000 feet. And now there's an exception allowing for "relief aircraft" at the direction of SpaceX.

So Stryder seems to be right. I don't think that they plan to release this thing into free flight, but just want to run its engine in a static test. But they are concerned about the possibility that it might explode and hurl metal fragments.

It's a strange thing. The Raptor engine is one of the most advanced rocket engines ever designed. And it's attached to what in effect is a glorified water tower. (A liquid methane and LOX tower in this case.) But if it will allow them to test out the control systems and thrust vectoring arrangements necessary to propulsively land the big Starship vehicle, it serves its purpose.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raptor_(ro...ne_family)
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