After a great deal of hardware shuffling, SpaceX fixed in a nosecone for Starship’s first high altitude protection and installed a pair of forward flaps.
Effectively resulting in the aerospace equivalent of a giant shell game, SpaceX spent the last few months developing and outfitting multiple Starship nosecone prototypes, seemingly refining the design and assembly with actual full-scale hardware. Within the last two or more weeks, the company removes at least two of the prototypes and appears to have officially removed an unfinished prototype.
More importantly, SpaceX has finally reduced the nosecone-to-be for the first high-altitude Starship prototype.
Local resident and photographer Mary (BocaChicaGal) first saw signs of that selection on October 12 when a prototype with an aerocover was installed inside SpaceX’s dedicated nosecone making tent. A natural preface to installing Starship mechanical surface controls (flaps), SpaceX wore a nosecone of flaps less than 24 hours later.
After the flap installation, the nosecone was rolled into a nearby windbreak – a small assembly bay that has been largely unused since the completion of a Starship Assembly ‘mid bay’ building. All signs currently suggest that the nosecone will be close and will be stacked on top of a section of five steel rings in the near future. The halves of the two sections of the nose are then welded together, while any remaining plumbing and electrical work can be completed if this has not already been done.
SpaceX has partially tested that process with a section of nose and ring that would otherwise have been scrapped straight. Before moving the nose with the windbreak flaps, SpaceX moved an older prototype – the first nose assembly to reach full height – on Starship SN5 and SN6, not knowing the fate.
Blocking a major anomaly during the upcoming triple-Raptor static fire test campaign of the Starship SN8, a first for both Starship and the engine family, the prototype could be the recipient of the new nosecone. Elon Musk said SpaceX will only install the SN8 nosecone after Starship completes one or more static fire tests on three Raptor engines. According to a relatively old tweet, SpaceX will static fire on the Starship SN8, inspect the rocket, and conduct another static fire before clearing it for the first 15 km (~ 10 mi) flight and skydiver landing test.
The first triple-Raptor static fire of the Starship SN8 may occur tonight during the 9 pm-6am test window or open between 8am and 4:30 pm CDT (UTC-5).
Check out Teslarati newsletters for instant updates, ground views, and unique glimpses of the Rocket launch and SpaceX recovery processes.