SpaceX has begun to install the first of many propellant storage tanks at its South Texas First Orbital Launch Facility-since these tanks will be built from spacecraft components, this is a very common expected step, which is different. ordinary.
Less than two months ago, in mid-February, the initial signs of these self-built tanks began to appear at SpaceX’s Boca Chica Starship plant. A few weeks later, the first of these SpaceX-branded cryogenic storage tanks is ready for launch (installation and insulation), and at least two more storage tanks are in the process of being completed.
Although some ground-hungry tanks may seem like a disturbance within the scope of the project planned to build the world̵
In short, rocket propellant storage-even for extremely cold cryogenic liquids like the ones used by SpaceX-is thoroughly solved the problem. There are a large number of commercial suppliers, and the industrial demand for almost identical storage tanks is much higher, due to economies of scale, they further reduce the cost of commercial storage tanks even for those niche use cases. For SpaceX’s purposes, given that the company needs to purchase about three to four dozen off-the-shelf commercial (COTS) 100,000 gallons of fuel tanks in order to provide enough merchandise for the launch pad for two batches of return, it can ensure a large discount. Launch “Supership” and “Super Heavy”.
The initial launch capability (which SpaceX appears to be working on) may allow the company to begin an orbital refueling test flight (and perhaps a Starlink launch) immediately after completion. However, this initial capability is insufficient for ambitious missions to Mars, the Moon or higher Earth orbits. A “starship” will need to be quickly refueled through more than 3-10 tanker launches. Launch facilities that can support 5-10 back-to-back launches (preferably only a few hours apart) will require more propellant storage space.
The point is that for the initial goal of two (or about two) launches between commodity replenishment, SpaceX may purchase dozens of new storage tanks, each requiring millions of dollars, and the total cost may be 5,000. Between US$10,000 and US$100 million. Instead, SpaceX decided to design and build its own propellant storage tank. More importantly, the GSE tank that SpaceX has begun to build is almost the same as the starship.
In other words, SpaceX effectively used the same rocket parts, made some fine adjustments to some of them, and then turned what could have been a rocket into a propellant tank. This is important because, compared to all other rockets in history, even SpaceX’s own Falcon 9 and Heavy, building tanks with unchanged rocket parts on the rocket assembly line will be similar to hiring Vincent Van Gogh to draw. Lane line.
Since Elon Musk made a major decision to transform from a composite structure to a stainless steel structure, Starship has been committed to fundamental It is different from any large rocket before it. Crucially, the CEO believes that by using commodity steel, SpaceX can build starships fairly easily, and that even SpaceX’s affordable Falcon 9 can be exchanged for a few cents in dollars. One or two large steel rockets are produced every month, and for the purpose of data collection and iterative improvement, at least four or five “starship” prototypes are entrusted to almost all guaranteed failures.
Technically speaking, the most logical conclusion is that Musk is right. SpaceX has rapidly developed the ability to manufacture steel rockets. This rocket is larger than any other launch vehicle on the planet, and the price of each rocket may be only For 5 million U.S. dollars or less. However, SpaceX also raises 1-2B US dollars in venture capital each year, so if the company is confident to reduce costs and achieve the goal, they can technically bear the cost of the extremely expensive starship prototype to make the rocket economically necessary.
Now, the existence of self-built propellant storage tanks is almost the same as the fuselage of a flyable spacecraft, but all of these ensure that SpaceX is already building spacecraft, each costing several million dollars or even lower. More than a year ago, Musk said that SpaceX is already making Raptor engines, which will power Starship and Super Heavy for less than $1 million, and are working to mass produce simpler ones for less than $250,000. Variants. In addition to the engine and main structure, the Starship hardware is very simple, ranging from Tesla-derived electric motors, basic flaps and landing feet to off-the-shelf pressure vessels (COPV) and wiring. Although Boca Chica is still far from reaching the level of mass production that Musk is pursuing, SpaceX still achieves extraordinary cost efficiency, which means that there is still more efficiency to achieve.
Currently, SpaceX’s South Texas Rocket Plant has almost no reorganization and identical assembly lines, and is busy producing large launch pad tanks-one of which is already in preparation for installation, while the other two are ready to be completed. All in all, SpaceX appears to be preparing the foundations for seven interstellar spacecraft with a width of 9m (30ft high) and a height of 2750m (90ft high). The storage tank should be able to store approximately 2,200 tons (4.9 million pounds) of supercooled in three storage tanks Liquid methane. There are approximately 7,300 tons (16.1 million pounds) of liquid oxygen in the other four storage tanks-enough for two orbital launches.