Photo credit: BocaChicaGal / NASASpaceflight
|Current Location:||Boca Chica, Texas|
Booster 7 stacking operations were underway as of December 27, with the NASA SpaceFlight Now stream capturing the aft section of the booster being raised in the High Bay. As of January 8, 2022 the aft LOX tank section was spotted being moved into the High Bay before the methane tank section began stacking on January 16. The Booster’s four grid fins were sighted on March 4. The next day on March 5, a new aft section design was spotted before it was rolled to the High Bay. The methane tank continued to be stacked in the Mid Bay.
While the Booster was being stacked in the High Bay, it was observed that the layout of the Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessel (COPVs) was different to previous boosters. Older boosters arrayed the COPVs in a ring, but on Booster 7 they were in two vertical columns. On March 10, the two sections of Booster 7 were stacked in the High Bay. Booster 7 was moved out of the High Bay twice on March 25 before being placed back in it.
Booster 7 was rolled out the launch site on March 31, being observed on its journey by Mary (BocaChicaGal) and Starship Gazer, when Cosmic Perspective observed that crews began to prepare it for being lifted.
NASASpaceFlight have documented a number of design changes to the Super Heavy booster, including:
- The thrust section has been changed to a four high stack with a non-standard ring height of 1.4m tall
- The stringers on Booster 7 have been extended further, possibly to provide additional reinforcement due to the use of Raptor 2 engines
- A new header tank design
- Pressure lines have been reduced from four on Booster 4 and Booster 5 to two.
- New aero surfaces are being installed on the Boosters, which will sit over the Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessels. The aero covers could allow for a more efficient boost back burn, allowing the booster to save fuel and increase the payload to orbit.
Plans to move Booster 7 were delayed after it was detached from the SpaceX LR 11000 Crane on April 1, however the next day on April 2 the Booster 7 was successfully lifted and placed on Orbital Launch Pad A. The first cryogenic pressure test took place on April 4. April 8 saw Booster 7 be lifted off the launch pad, and placed on a structural test stand. An ambient pressure test took place on April 11 (observed by a friendly bird).
On April 18, Booster 7 was transported back to the production facility, being moved to the High Bay presumably to have its engines fitted. A leaked image on April 23 showed damage to Booster 7 after the downcomer pipe had been crushed. By May 6 the damage had apparently been repaired, as Booster 7 was rolled out once again from the High Bay and moved to the Orbital Launch Pad.
New preparations for removing Booster 7 from the pad commenced on May 12 when it was connected to a load spreader crane. Booster 7 was then rolled back to the production site on May 14 where it was placed into the new Mega Bay.
All dates & times are local unless otherwise indicated.