SpaceX proposes to conduct Starship/Super Heavy launch operations from the Boca Chica Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas. The proposed operations would include suborbital launches and/or orbital launches. The action would also include the associated actions of tank tests, static fire engine tests, expansion of the vertical launch area (VLA) and solar farm, and construction of additional infrastructure.
The Boca Chica launch site is located on SpaceX-owned land in Cameron County, Texas, near the cities of Brownsville and South Padre Island. The launch site consists of the VLA, which is controlled by the launch and landing control center (LLCC). The VLA is approximately 2.2 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border and the LLCC is approximately 1.3 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border. State Highway (SH) 4 provides access to the launch site and terminates directly adjacent to the VLA. The LLCC consists of a two-story building (referred to as Stargate) and is located west of the VLA along SH 4.
The fully integrated launch vehicle is comprised of two stages: Super Heavy is the first stage (or booster), and Starship is the second stage. The fully integrated Starship/Super Heavy launch vehicle will be approximately 400 feet tall and 30 feet in diameter. Super Heavy will be equipped with up to 37 Raptor engines and Starship will employ up to six Raptor engines. The Raptor engine is powered by liquid oxygen and liquid methane.
Prior to conducting a suborbital launch of a Super Heavy or Starship prototype, SpaceX must conduct tank tests to ensure the tank's reliability. This involves performing pressure tests prior to performing a static fire engine test to confirm the structural integrity of the launch vehicle. During tank tests, SpaceX pressurizes the tank with gaseous media or liquid propellants.
Pre-flight operations include mission rehearsals and static fire engine tests. The goal of mission rehearsals is to verify that all vehicle and ground systems are functioning properly, as well as to verify that all procedures are properly written. After final systems checkout, SpaceX would conduct a mission rehearsal without propellants on the launch vehicle (referred to as a dry dress rehearsal), followed by a mission rehearsal with propellants on the launch vehicle (referred to as a wet dress rehearsal) to verify full launch readiness. In addition to conducting dress rehearsals, SpaceX would conduct static fire engine tests. The goal of a static fire engine test is to verify engine control and performance. A static fire engine test is identical to a wet dress rehearsal, except engine ignition occurs. During a static fire engine test, the launch vehicle engines are ignited for approximately 15–30 seconds and then shut down.
SpaceX is proposing to conduct suborbital and orbital launches. Launches would occur at the VLA and include landings of both stages at the VLA or on a platform (barge) in the Gulf of Mexico no closer than 12 miles off the coast.
SpaceX's proposed new launch-related construction activity consists of expanding the solar farm, adding infrastructure and facilities at the VLA, a liquid natural gas pretreatment system and a liquefier. At the VLA, SpaceX is proposing to construct a redundant launch pad and commodities, a redundant landing pad, two integration towers, tank structural test stands, and a desalination plant.
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