A few days after SpaceX’s second full-height Starship prototype made a small fall into an assembly bay, the company’s South Texas missile factory began the final touches on the tip of its younger brother’s nose.
On December 19, SpaceX began the final stacking work needed to complete the Starship SN10 nose section, which consists of a conical nose.cone above several steel rings. Unlike Starships SN8 and SN9, the first two flight prototypes to reach maximum height, the Starship SN10 assembly will be with a shorter ring (five to four) for unknown reasons – the low nose ring added at the top of the section of his tank.
If the task is not already completed, the SpaceX integration team will join its nose and rings with one or two circumferential welds, traversing the entire circumference of 28 meters (~ 90 ft). At the edges, the jet cables, hydraulic hoses and liquid oxygen supply lines required to operate the cold gas thrusters of the damper, damper and propulsion tank will also be connected – first from the nose ring section and then once SN10 is completed the nose is stacked above the rest of its air frame.
If the Starship SN10 production mirrors SN9, the section of the rocket nose will be ready for final installation on December 25, give or take a day or two. If the two processes are largely identical, Starship SN9 – which is still recovering from a collapse of the workstation that damaged two keyboards – will have to be moved from the high seat where it was assembled.
As it happens, SpaceX has unspecified road closures scheduled from about 8 am to 5 pm CST (UTC-6) on December 21, 22 and 23, which could be used to transport the Starship SN9 and the crane needed to lift it to the launch pad. The Starship SN10 tank and engine section would then be rolled from its middle to high swing to install the nose section. As Starship SN8 has shown, SpaceX could be content with a less desirable option if SN9 needs more time by installing the Starship SN10 nose outdoors.
In the end, Starship SN9 seems to have miraculously survived a major handling error that could have easily become fatal and almost certainly marked the end of any other missile in production. However, if SN9 do what reaches the test stand, but fails during testing or during its own high-altitude launch attempt, Starship SN10 will likely be ready to take the torch forward almost as soon as needed.