SpaceX has begun installing the first of numerous propellant storage tanks at its initial orbital South Texas launch centers – a mostly ordinary and expected step made outstanding by the fact that these tanks will be constructed out of Starship parts.
Labeled “GSE” for Ground Support Equipment, the initial signs of these self-built storage tanks began appearing at SpaceX’s Boca Chica Starship factory less than two weeks ago from mid-February. A matter of weeks later, the very first of these SpaceX-brand cryogenic storage tanks will be off to the launch site for setup (and insulation) while two more tanks are well on their way to end.
Even though a few ground starge tanks might seem as a diversion in the reach of a program tasked with constructing the planet ’s largest (and totally reusable) rocket, the occurrence of these tanks is far more important than it may initially appear.
Just dawned on me that this is a much bigger deal than it may seem. For SpaceX to design and construct its own customized made bulk product storage tanks rather than purchasing what is arguably a rather regular and affordable off-the-shelf technology, Starship manufacturing has to become DIRT CHEAP. https://t.co/u7KNDXWcuf
— Eric Ralph (@13ericralph31) April 6, 2021
The point is that for the initial target of two (roughly ) slips between product resupply, SpaceX could probably acquire the couple dozen brand new storage tanks that it would require for a couple million bucks apiece for a whole cost likely between $50M and $100M. Instead, SpaceX has chosen to design and construct its own propellant storage tanks. Much more importantly, the GSE tanks SpaceX has begun building appear to be virtually equal to Starships.
To put it differently, SpaceX is effectively taking indistinguishable rocket elements, slightly tweaking a handful of these parts, and turning what might have turned into a rocket into a propellant storage container. This is important because relative to other rockets ever , even including SpaceX’s own Falcon 9 and Heavy, building storage tanks using unchanged rocket parts on a rocket assembly line could be roughly equal to hiring Vincent van Gogh to paint lane lines.
Since Elon Musk chose the radical decision to switch from composite constructions to stainless steel, Starship has always planned to become radically different than any large rocket prior to it. Crucially, using commodity steel, the CEO envisioned SpaceX will have the ability to construct Starships fairly easily and also for pennies on the dollar next to SpaceX’s exceptionally affordable Falcon 9. In the last 18 months, it’s been apparent that SpaceX has assembled a factory capable of churning out just one or even two massive steel rockets a month and will be ready to consign at least four or five of these Starship prototypes to all-but-guaranteed failures for the interest of data-gathering and iterative progress.
SpaceX purchased run-of-the-mill off-the-shelf storage tanks to construct its suborbital Starship launch complicated. That won’t be true for its orbital-class big brother. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal)
Technically, the logical conclusion would be that Musk was right and that SpaceX has quickly developed the ability to construct steel rockets larger than every launch vehicle on Earth for maybe just $5M or less apiece. But, SpaceX can also be increasing on the order of $1-2B in venture capital yearly, so they could technically afford to shoulder the cost of exceptionally expensive Starship prototypes in the event the business was convinced that there was a route to cut those costs and achieve the targets required for the rocket to produce economic sense.
Now, the occurrence of self-built propellant storage tanks practically equal to flightworthy Starship airframes all but guarantees that SpaceX is already building Starships for a couple million bucks each – and possibly much less. Over a year ago, Musk stated that SpaceX was building the Raptor engines which will force Starship and Super Heavy for under $1M apiece and was working to mass-produce a simpler variant for significantly less than $250,000. Beyond motors and chief constructions, Starship hardware is fairly simple and ranges from Tesla-derived motors, basic flaps, and landing legs to pressure vessels (COPVs) and wiring. SpaceX has managed that exceptional cost-efficiency in spite of the fact that Boca Chica is still somewhat near the level of volume manufacturing Musk is aiming for, meaning that there are still far more efficiencies waiting to become accomplished.
SpaceX’s tradition pad storage tanks will be installed on reinforced concrete stands and (probably ) somehow insulated. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal)
For now, with practically no retooling and the exact same assembly , SpaceX’s South Texas rocket factory is busy churning out massive launch pad tanks – among which is already preparing for setup while the other two rate towards conclusion. All told, SpaceX appears to be preparing bases for seven 9m-wide (30ft), 27.5m-tall (90ft) Starship-derived tanks which needs to be capable of storing ~2200 heaps (4.9 million pounds) of subcooled liquid methane in three tanks and ~7300 heaps (16.1 million pounds) of liquid oxygen in another four tanks – enough for two orbital Starship launches.
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