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SpaceX's highly anticipated Starship orbital test launch will take place at the end of this month, says a lone source report from a local publication in Boca Chica, Texas. The rocket company is building the world's largest rocket at the village, and according to the Port Isabel Press, the vehicle will be tested right at the end of the month, on January 31st. The Starship orbital test flight has seen several speculative launch dates, with most of these pegging an attempt in 2022. However, due to the rocket's scale alongside the added complexity of firing up multiple engines at the same time, SpaceX has slowed down its development pace.
SpaceX Will Pull Off Miracle If It Launches Starship By End Of This Month
When it comes to progress, there are few companies - and none in the aerospace sector - that can move as fast as SpaceX can. Just last year, as January started, we came across footage that showed the firm melting its Raptor 2 engine as part of tests that were likely conducted to test the system to its limits. Then, later on, as part of a test campaign, the fuel pipe of the massive Super Heavy first-stage booster bent out of shape. However, in a testament to its remarkable pace of operations, SpaceX managed to remove the pipe, install a new one and then ship the booster back to the site in just a couple of weeks.
Now, a report from Port Isabel South Padre believes that Starship will launch at the end of this month. It sources its information from a single low level SpaceX employee and states that the launch will be the biggest in the region's history. Of course, should SpaceX conduct an orbital test flight by using all of the 33 Raptor 2 engines, then it won't only be the largest launch in South Padre's history but also the largest launch in human history.
Starship is a super heavy rocket class, and to date, only a handful of these have flown successfully. The first was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Saturn V rocket, which generated 7.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. The second was the Soviet Union's Energia, capable of generating another 7.8 million pounds. Recently, NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket sent the first human spaceship to the Moon this millennium, generating 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.
However, all of these pale in comparison to Starship. The rocket is designed to generate an absolutely eye popping 17 million pounds of thrust - more than the thrust of the SLS and the Saturn V combined. Naturally, these ambitious design parameters inject their own added complexity into the Starship, not the least of which is the task of managing 33 engines at the same time.
To gauge an idea of this complexity, the Saturn V used five F-1 engines and each of these had dedicated fuel and liquid Oxygen pipes. Starship is a vastly different design since having separate pipes for each of the 33 engines is simply impossible in terms of bending, shaping and accommodating the pipes in a single structure - and one that has to withstand the stress of pumping out close to two million pounds of thrust.
Therefore, Starship uses a primary fuel feeder pipe that splits into 33 branches each, for fuel and the oxidizer. This leaves the system prone to bubbling, a massive risk that threatens to destroy a rocket engine. However, Starship's engine layout, which sees them placed in a circular orientation, is different than the Falcon 9's layout, which puts them in an octagonal configuration. This reduces the number of pipes required for each engine and provides the added advantage of preventing bubbles in only two adjacent engines and then applying the fix to the other 15 pairs.
While Port Isabel South Padre believes that the Starship launch is due in January end, SpaceX chief Mr. Elon Musk believes that it might be possible for SpaceX to make an attempt in February and that March is looking "highly likely."