Booster 4

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Photo credit: Elon Musk

Overview

Type: Prototype
Class: Super Heavy
Status: Retired
Fate: Relocated to rocket garden in June 2022
Year Built: 2021
Year Decomissioned: 2022

History

Construction

Booster 4 is a Super Heavy booster that is currently under construction in Boca Chica, Texas.

It was reported by NASASpaceFlight.com that Ship 20 (previously known as SN20) with Booster 4 (originally planned to be BN3, which instead was incorporated into Booster 3) would attempt an orbital test launch by 1 July 2021. The launch scheduled was later pushed back into July/August.

This was later confirmed by Elon Musk who tweeted that Booster 4 would be the first one to fly, while Booster 3 would be used in ground tests. There would be significant design changes between Booster 3 and 4 as there had been difficulties in the construction of Booster 3.

A section of Booster 4 was spotted in the High Bay on 3 July 2021. By 21 July it had been stacked to twelve rings tall, with the Methane Transfer Tube (aka Downcomer pipe) being installed in the early hours of 27 July. The launch appeared to take on new urgency with Elon Musk ordering several hundred of SpaceX’s employees at Hawthorne to relocate to Boca Chica to speed up the development of Ship 20 and Booster 4, along with the Orbital Launch Platform to have the Starship system on the pad by 5 August.

The LOX section was stacked on 30 July. At the same time a grid fin was spotted arriving and installation started later that night. Around 3:30pm on 1 August final stacking operations began, by 4:27pm the stacking had been completed apart from the final welding. Raptor engines were then moved nearby and Elon announced that the engines were being installed, and observers kept note of the arriving engines as they arrived.

SpaceX engineers worked throughout the night so that by morning on 2 August, Super Heavy Booster 4 had received 29 raptor engines.

During a tour of SpaceX’s Boca Chica operations by Tim Dodd (Everyday Astronaut), Elon Musk stated that the grid fins mounted to Booster 4 would not retract, a decision made to cut down on the complexity of the build and speed up the production process.

Testing
2021

On 3 August, Booster 4 was rolled out to the Orbital Launch Pad, marking the first time that an orbital capable Super Heavy had been completed and moved. The next day on 4 August Booster 4 was placed on the launch pad in preparation for having Ship 20 stacked on top of it.

After a delay a one day delay due to higher than expected winds, Ship 20 was successfully stacked onto Booster 4 on 6 August at 7:56am, marking the first time a Super Heavy Booster and the second stage Starship had been stacked, representing the largest rocket in human history to date. Booster 4 stayed on the Orbital Launch Pad until 12 August when it was rolled back to the High Bay, with Elon announcing that it would return to the launch pad on Monday 16 August (winds permitting).

After arriving in the High Bay, engineers began to remove the Raptor engines from the booster. The planned return to the launch pad did not end up taking place, with Booster 4 remaining in the High Bay for the rest of August as it was tended to by engineers. It was noted during the night of 23/24 August that more Raptor engines were spotted being moved nearby and several of them were reinstalled. By 7 September, Booster 4 had its 29 raptor engines installed and was rolled out again to the Orbital Launch Pad A and was lifted onto the launch mount for a second time a day later on 8 September.

On 10 September Elon stated on Twitter that the static fire testing for Booster 4 was planned for “hopefully next week“. 17 September saw the removal of Raptor 67 with it being replaced by Raptor 64 the next day. On 25 September Booster 4 was lifted off the Orbital Launch Pad and placed on a stand nearby, presumably to allow for more work on the launch tower including the installation of the arms that will be used to catch future Boosters.

Elon Musk gave an interview to the SSB & BPA Joint Fall Meeting on November 17 (watch here), revealing more details about the Starship program including a targeted launch date of January/February 2022 for S20/B4.

Testing was kicked up a gear when Booster 4 was returned to the Orbital Launch Platform on December 13, a few days later Elon Musk tweeted footage of the central Raptor engines undergoing a gimbal test. The first cryogenic pressure test was carried out on December 17, with another substantial test being observed on December 22.

Booster 4 was removed from the Orbital Launch Pad on December 30, being placed on a stand near by.

2022

With preparations for a possible stacking taking place, the grid fins were unstrapped on February 1. A few days later on February 5, Booster 4 began the process of returning to the Orbital Launch Pad once again on February 6. The stack was completed during the night of February 9/10, with Ship 20 remaining supported by the chop stick arms.

On February 14 Ship 20 was de-stacked again from Booster 4 and lowered to the ground. Booster 4 under went a successful cryogenic test on March 2. Ship 20 was stacked with Booster 4 again on March 15. The first ever stacked cryogenic pressure test took place on the night of March 16/17, with a follow up propellant loading test being completed on March 18. The next night on March 19 saw Ship 20 being destacked from Booster 4 for what is believed to be the final time. A methane test was conducted on March 2.

Preparations were made to lift Booster 4 off the launch mount when the SpaceX LR 11000 Crane was positioned near by on March 23, with the Booster being removed the next day on March 24, paving the way for Booster 7 to be moved to the launch mount in anticipation of the first orbital flight test.

Booster 4 was moved to the rocket garden on June 30.

Milestones

All dates & times are local unless otherwise indicated.

Date Type Location
August 1, 2021 Construction Boca Chica, Texas
August 3, 2021 Moved to Pad Boca Chica, Texas
Rolled out to Orbital Launch Pad A
August 6, 2021 Construction Boca Chica, Texas
Marks the first time a Super Heavy booster and Starship second stage had been stacked
September 7, 2021 Moved to Pad Boca Chica, Texas
Rolled out to Orbital Launch Pad A
December 17, 2021 Cryogenic Pressure Test Success Boca Chica, Texas
December 21, 2021 Cryogenic Pressure Test Success Boca Chica, Texas
December 22, 2021 Cryogenic Pressure Test Success Boca Chica, Texas
March 2, 2022 Cryogenic Pressure Test Success Boca Chica, Texas
March 16, 2022 Cryogenic Pressure Test Success Boca Chica, Texas
Stacked with Ship 20.
June 30, 2022 Decomissioned Boca Chica, Texas
Relocated to rocket garden

Raptor Engines

Engine Number Installation Year
RB7 2021
RB2 2021
RB3 2021
RB15 2021
RB19 2021
RB9 2021
RB21 2021
RB18 2021
RB4 2021
RB6 2021
RC74 2021
RC79 2021
RC58 2021
RB8 2021
RB11 2021
RB14 2021
RB20 2021
RC65 2021

Location History

Location Date From Date To
Production Facility (Boca Chica, Texas) July 3, 2021 August 3, 2021
Orbital Launch Pad A (Boca Chica, Texas) August 3, 2021 August 12, 2021
Production Facility (Boca Chica, Texas) August 12, 2021 September 7, 2021
Orbital Launch Pad A (Boca Chica, Texas) September 7, 2021 March 24, 2022
Launch Facility (Boca Chica, Texas) March 24, 2022 Present


Related

More Information

UTC Time

Thursday, 11-Aug-22 12:33:57 UTC

Boca Chica Local Time

Thursday, 11-Aug-22 07:33:57 CDT