SpaceX’s plans to test and fly the first upgraded spaceship are rapidly taking shape

After SpaceX unexpectedly used a roadblock on Monday to deliver its first custom rocket fuel tank, plans for the next Starship test campaign and launch are starting to solidify.

Most importantly, the original schedule for the Starship serial number 15 (SN15) test campaign appears to be clear. As of Wednesday, April 7, road closures filed by SpaceX suggest that the first of a new batch of upgraded Starships will be transported from the construction site to the launch pad on Thursday, April from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. CDT (UTC-5). 8th. Once SN15 is installed on ‘Suborbital Pad A’, SpaceX means no time to waste and has scheduled a road closure from 7am to noon on Friday.

As usual, the weekend will again be free of testing or activities requiring road closures, but SpaceX has already dropped off between noon and 8pm on Monday and Tuesday (April 12/13) to put its latest Starship prototype to the test.

SpaceX technicians and engineers are working to finalize the weld connecting the two halves of Starship SN15 and remove scaffolding before the rocket heads for the launch pad. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal)

Although road closure announcements no longer provide real detail, some basic details can still be inferred. For example, the April 7 shutdown warns that SpaceX only plans to shut off the highway intermittently, but not Boca Chica Beach – implying that the window poses no threat to residents or beachgoers. Historically, that means something is being transported – in this case, probably Starship SN15.

On Friday, SpaceX has scheduled a full five-hour shutdown of both the highway and beach, implying some sort of testing is likely on the books. The same goes for Mondays and Tuesdays, but with longer closings of eight hours.

More likely than not, assuming Starship SN15’s pad transport and launch assembly is smooth, SpaceX will use the shorter Friday window to perform a base pressure test – filling the rocket with nitrogen gas at ambient temperature to test the complex plumbing and propellant tanks for leaks. Continuing the IFF string (if and only if), SpaceX will then spend the weekend preparing Starship SN15 for a cryogenic trial and the thrust structure stress test – simulating the thrust of three Raptors after loading the rocket with extremely cold liquid nitrogen (LN2).

SpaceX will then most likely spend another one or two days inspecting Starship SN15 and removing the hydraulic ram used to simulate the thrust of the launch support on which the ship is installed. Once SN15 and its assembly are released, SpaceX can proceed to static fire testing. Considering that – according to CEO Elon Musk – SN15 Raptor engines will debut with an unknown degree of upgrades, it’s reasonable to assume SpaceX will take it relatively slowly and potentially run more than one static burn test, even if the first attempt is a total success. .

If not and SpaceX continues to push hard as it did with SN10 and SN11, it is not out of the question that Starship SN15 will be ready for its first launch attempt around Friday April 16 or Monday April 19. Stay tuned for updates as SpaceX hopefully rolls the rocket to its Boca Chica, Texas launch pad later in the day.