A Tour Of SpaceX’s Starbase Facility With Elon Musk
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Private discussions between SpaceX and various state officials about a future private launch site began at least as early as 2011, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk mentioned interest in a private launch site for their commercial launches in a speech in September 2011. SpaceX publicly announced in August 2014, that they had decided on Texas as the location for their new non-governmental launch site. Site soil work began in 2015 and major construction of facilities began in late-2018, with rocket engine testing and flight testing beginning in 2019.
The name Starbase began to be used more widely by SpaceX after March 2021 when SpaceX had some discussions described as a “casual enquiry” about incorporating a city to be called Starbase. For further information, see Boca Chica (Texas) § “Starbase”, Texas.
In case any of you need a bit of introductory explanation for SpaceX’s Starbase, please refer to the excerpt from wikipedia, in italics, below:
The SpaceX South Texas launch site, referred to by SpaceX as Starbase, and also known as the Boca Chica launch site, is a private rocket production facility, test site, and spaceport constructed by SpaceX, located at Boca Chica approximately 32 km (20 mi) east of Brownsville, Texas, on the US Gulf Coast. When conceptualized, its stated purpose was “to provide SpaceX an exclusive launch site that would allow the company to accommodate its launch manifest and meet tight launch windows.” The launch site was originally intended to support launches of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles as well as “a variety of reusable suborbital launch vehicles”, but in early 2018, SpaceX announced a change of plans, stating that the launch site would be used exclusively for SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle, Starship. Between 2018 and 2020, the site added significant rocket production and test capacity. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk indicated in 2014 that he expected “commercial astronauts, private astronauts, to be departing from South Texas,” and he foresaw launching spacecraft to Mars from the site.
Between 2012 and 2014, SpaceX considered seven potential locations around the United States for the new commercial launch facility. Generally, for orbital launches an ideal site would have an easterly water overflight path for safety and be located as close to the equator as possible in order to take advantage of the Earth’s rotational speed. For much of this period, a parcel of land adjacent to Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville, Texas, was the leading candidate location, during an extended period while the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted an extensive environmental assessment on the use of the Texas location as a launch site. Also during this period, SpaceX began acquiring land in the area, purchasing approximately 41 acres (170,000 m2) and leasing 57 acres (230,000 m2) by July 2014. SpaceX announced in August 2014, that they had selected the location near Brownsville as the location for the new non-governmental launch site, after the final environmental assessment completed and environmental agreements were in place by July 2014. An orbital launch of the Starship would make it SpaceX’s fourth active launch facility, following three launch locations that are leased from the US government.
SpaceX conducted a groundbreaking ceremony on the new launch facility in September 2014, and soil preparation began in October 2015. The first tracking antenna was installed in August 2016, and the first propellant tank arrived in July 2018. In late 2018, construction ramped up considerably, and the site saw the fabrication of the first 9 m-diameter (30 ft) prototype test vehicle, Starhopper, which was tested and flown March–August 2019. Through 2021, additional prototype flight vehicles are being built at the facility for higher-altitude tests. By March 2020, there were over 500 people employed at the facility, with most of the work force involved in 24/7 production operations for the third-generation SpaceX launch vehicle, Starship.
Join Tim Dodd, The Everyday Astronaut (a science communicator, photographer, and musician) on a tour of SpaceX’s Starbase facility with Elon Musk as our tour guide! This is part 1 of 3, where Elon Musk shares much of what SpaceX had learn. So stay tuned, there’s a lot more coming! In the video published on August 3, 2021, “Starbase Tour with Elon Musk [PART 1]“, below:
Need a rundown on Starship? I’ve got you covered with our “Complete Guide to Starship” https://youtu.be/-8p2JDTd13k
02:02 – Conversation Starts
06:18 – High Bay
28:23.- Grid Fin
33:55 – Raptor V2
39:53 – HLS
40:45 – Stage Separation / Hot Gas Thrusters
48:00 – HLS (again)
51:44 – Outro
For more details of this interview above, please click HERE.
Join Tim Dodd and Elon Musk as Tim Dodd took a tour of SpaceX’s Starbase facility with Elon Musk as our tour guide! This is part 2 of 3, so stay tuned, there’s another one coming! In the video published on August 7, 2021, “Starabase Tour with Elon Musk [PART2]“, below:
00:00 – Intro
00:45 – Tent 1 // Raptors
05:00 – Failure and the Space Shuttle
08:35 – Launch Escape Systems
10:50 – Tent 2
13:00 – Heat Shield Talk
16:20 – 1st Orbital Test
26:26 – Tent 3 // Nose Cones
37:40 – S20 Nose Cone // Reentry
51:00 – 69.420
54:00 – Grid Fin talk / Control Authority
59:55 – Outro
For more details of the part 2 of this interview above, please click HERE.
Musk’s Engineering Philosophy (recorded by The Everyday Astronaut, Tim Dodd, in italics):
Musk overviewed his five step engineering process, which must be completed in order:
- Make the requirements less dumb. The requirements are definitely dumb; it does not matter who gave them to you. He notes that it’s particularly dangerous if an intelligent person gives you the requirements, as you may not question the requirements enough. “Everyone’s wrong. No matter who you are, everyone is wrong some of the time.” He further notes that “all designs are wrong, it’s just a matter of how wrong.”
- Try very hard to delete the part or process. If parts are not being added back into the design at least 10% of the time, not enough parts are being deleted. Musk noted that the bias tends to be very strongly toward “let’s add this part or process step in case we need it.” Additionally, each required part and process must come from a name, not a department, as a department cannot be asked why a requirement exists, but a person can.
- Simplify and optimize the design. This is step three as the most common error of a smart engineer is to optimize something that should not exist.
- Accelerate cycle time. Musk states “you’re moving too slowly, go faster! But don’t go faster until you’ve worked on the other three things first.”
- Automate. An important part of this is to remove in-process testing after the problems have been diagnosed; if a product is reaching the end of a production line with a high acceptance rate, there is no need for in-process testing.
Additionally, Musk restated that he believes everyone should be a chief engineer. Engineers need to understand the system at a high level to understand when they are making a bad optimization. As an example, Musk noted that an order of magnitude more time has been spent reducing engine mass than reducing residual propellant, despite both being equally as important.
At this point, I feel obliged to give The Everyday Astronaut youtube channel a plug, so please click HERE.
Join Tim Dodd taking a tour of SpaceX’s Starbase launchpad with Elon Musk as our tour guide! This is part 3 or 3, so if you haven’t seen parts one and two, definitely start there! In the video published on Aug. 11, 2021, “Starbase Launchpad Tour with Elon Musk [PART 3]“, below:
Gathered, written, and posted by Windermere Sun-Susan Sun Nunamaker
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