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SpaceX prepares SuperHeavy's maiden flight for 2023

NASA requires the company to present a functional rocket and spacecraft to move forward with the Artemis project

Booster 7 and Ship 24 stacked on OLM, Starbase. Photo: Carlos Nunez

SpaceX has been promising the start of flights of its Starship/Superheavy system to launch heavy payloads into low orbit and for flights to the Moon and Mars since the launch base in Texas was ready. CEO Elon Musk and the most optimistic part of the engineers, was to test fly the Superheavy 'booster' 7 (or B7) rocket with the Starship spacecraft'Ship 24' by March 2023. Until the middle of the year, the company was trying to speed up the assembly and configuration of the rocket/ship set and in the reconditioning of the parts that had been used in the electrical and mechanical tests. The reason was that NASA established the condition that the launcher's reliability should still be proven at SpaceX's facilities in Starbase at Boca Chica, Texas: For the American space agency, it would take several successful launches of the rocket – both in suborbital tests, tests in fractional orbit and tests in orbit; Only then would SpaceX have a clear path to transport entire blocks and the spacecraft to platform 39A, where the traditional Apollo/Shuttle platform had already been renovated for Falcon 9 launches in both cargo and crew versions.

Photo Journal by Carlos Nunez

The work of mitigating risks

At its home base in Texas, SpaceX is focusing on mitigating the risk of failure in its first flight tests – a possibility accepted as highly likely by engineers. So technicians are running successive static test operations to minimize this risk as much as possible. Throughout the second half of the 2022, both the spacecraft and its rocket, as well as the launch facilities themselves, received equipment completions. The service tower and umbilical, with recovery arms and umbilical bridges being fitted with updated versions of fittings, ducts and piping. The ground support system, with the methane, nitrogen and liquid oxygen tanks and their feed pumps and electrical installations.

Orbital Launch Mount of Starbase, Photo: Carlos Nunez

Progress on the Rocket in Boca Chica

At the company's test facility, the Raptor engine was tested on the tripod test stand to check an electric motor thrust vector control system. This control system (' gimba