SpaceX is busy producing dozens of steel rings for Starship’s first Super Heavy booster, which CEO Elon Musk says could take “a few weeks” to assemble.
More than twice the height of the Starship’s main fuel tank and engine section, the incredible Super Heavy boosters will stand an incredible 70+ meters (230+ feet) once completed – the same height or longer than the two-stage Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy missile. Unlike the Starship, the Super Heavy will not have a conical nose section and will be built – like spacecraft tanks – entirely of simple steel rings.
Each measuring 9 meters (~ 30 feet) in diameter and 1.8 meters (6 feet) long, SpaceX would need to stack about 38 of those steel rings to complete the Super Heavy fuel tanks, interstages, and engine section. Impressively, SpaceX is making progress in building Super Heavy subsections that the start of the first booster group will likely wait until the facility (“High Bay”) is long enough ready to be stacked.
Thanks to the hand-affixed stickers on each ring set and the watchful eye of local resident and photographer Mary (also known as BocaChicaGal), at least six confirmed sections of the first Super Heavy (SH1) booster have already been spotted at Boca Chica. It ranges from two to four episodes in length, and the first of those episodes was spotted on September 22, followed by another on the 28th.
Within the first few days of October, this doubled to four, five and six confirmed piles, plus several potential candidates with labels hidden from publicly available views. Additionally, Musk’s recent observation that his Super Heavy boosters’ liquid oxygen tank will have “linear reinforcers” – also known as strings – meaning that a trio of five-ring beams with said stringers are also candidates for Super Heavy # 1.
Assuming one of those three sets of five rings is reserved for the first functional spacecraft nose section, SpaceX may already have more than 30 super-heavy episodes – out of roughly 38 total – awaiting completion of the High Bay construction.
The height of SpaceX’s raised Boca Chica Bay is about 80 meters (~ 260 ft), which is a closed gantry crane that will be used to stack and equip Super Heavy boosters – the final steps of production. SpaceX and its contractors began building the soaring bay in early July, and Musk says the massive building is “a few weeks” away from completion. As of October, the structure is basically complete, as are the wall cladding. Almost half of the building’s roof is also complete, leaving a small amount of work remaining before power, air conditioning and plumbing are all that remains.
Not surprisingly, SpaceX’s CEO also says that the raised bay will eventually be equipped with a “gigantic gantry crane,” although the enhanced Super Heavy stacking will likely begin before then. In the meantime, there’s a good chance that SpaceX will start stacking the Super Heavy subsections in Starship Bay located in the middle of the bay, and hopefully leaving a few large stacks in High Bay to complete the first booster.
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