Space Exploration Technologies Corps (SpaceX), the maker of its astronaut launch equipment, has been granted a three-year extension in its license to test the company’s facilities in Boca Chika, Texas. The extension comes from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that Starship SN8 has approved a grant from SpaceX filed last week in the wake of the successful test flight of the high-level spacecraft test article.
The absence of Super Heavy from grants and requests means no test flight for the booster
The approval was given yesterday through a notification emailed to a representative of SpaceX yesterday. This is due to the need to communicate with test articles while on the SpaceX flight. This communication is two-way, the downlink enables you to monitor the performance of the prototype during the flight, and the uplink enables it to change parameters (such as orientation or engine throttle) in response to the information it receives.
Although a recent request from SpaceX was filed last week or not mentioned by the name of the starship in the initial request for frequency usage filed in 2018 (the only detail they share is for ‘vertical takeoff, vertical landing’ (VTVL) vehicles, it is clear that the starship is being tested. Original and renewal applications and grant issues.
The extension also only covers tests of high-level Starship spacecraft, as clarified by the list of FCC-approved frequencies. In a presentation to the SpaceX Commission in July, Starship shared four frequencies and four frequencies for the first-level booster Super Heavy. Two of the four for the spacecraft are explicitly mentioned, and the other two are in the closest range to those shared with the regulatory body.
Yet, of the four super-heavy fours, none are present directly or at close range, suggesting that SpaceX will probably use other mechanisms (such as a special temporary approval (STA)) to test this final rocket that will ultimately be responsible for lifting the launch platform from Earth’s gravity. In other words, just because the booster’s frequency wasn’t part of SpaceX’s extension request (which the 2018 request follows verbatim) doesn’t mean its prototype won’t be tested.
SpaceX is busy building prototypes of the booster at its Boca Chika facilities, but details of potential test aircraft are scarce. They will be difficult to test in certain aspects when compared to SN8 test flights. Although SpaceX will not have to test the Canard for its booster, as it will use the same standard grid fin as the Falcon 9 to orient itself for landing, the number of engines in this prototype may be larger than the presence in the SN8.
SpaceX has tested the SN8 with its three Raptor engines, with engine life and the transfer of fuel flow from the vehicle’s primary tank to the secondary tanks as the aircraft’s core evaluation criteria. However, the number of engines that SpaceX will use in the super heavy prototype test is much higher, however. Not much.
Mr. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, shared some details about this parameter during the 23rd Annual Conference of the Mars Society in October. According to him, the primary aircraft “There can only be two to four engines ” Since his company could test the Raptors at their full potential to make up for the lack of engines and take the booster prototype to its full height.
A full-scale prototype of the booster will be 230 feet high, according to details shared on SpaceX’s website, and the first full-scale prototype of the high-end spacecraft / payload fairing released by Musk last year was 164 feet long. The final version of the booster will have 26 engines, and given the complex process of producing them, Musk and his team are hesitant to conduct a full-scale test flight before evaluating all the major car parameters.