15 thoughts on “The Latest Starship Mystery”

  1. They don’t intend to have it reenter and land, so they left off things not needed. It’s doing something circum-lunar?

      1. With 250 tonnes of propellant rather than 250 tonnes of payload, I would think that the stripped down Starship would have the DV to do circumlunar at a minimum.

  2. Why can’t it be given cryo testing, tiles put on after this [or not] and any modification done the payload section after cryo testing?

    1. It would run counter to all the other shielded ships, which have pins installed and flap hardware during production, not after.
      Definitely something different happening with this one.

  3. I go with the last option Starship to Starship fuel transfer demo ship. Also use as an Orbital Depot/Orbital Tanker. Believe that has been mention as a contract requirement from NASA. Demonstrate it can be refueled and then do a cislunar.

    Speculating that SpaceX not fully ready/cleared for orbital recovery. Setting up a Fuel tug in orbit that can meet contract requirements while also being useful in the future. Bring in some badly needed $$ with out tossing out equipment. Be interesting what it engine config is.

    1. I go with the last option Starship to Starship fuel transfer demo ship.

      The initial test/milestone, as required by NASA, does not even have to be ship-to-ship, but merely transfer between tanks within one vehicle. Odds are, this will be the subject of the first propellant transfer test flight: just one Starship, conducting transfer of the required amount of propellant from one tank to another.

      The next test would, indeed, be ship to ship.

      But I think the emerging consensus is right that Ship 26 is indeed intended for a propellant transfer test mission of some sort.

  4. For any sort of depot or orbital tug, they’ll need to know how long all the systems will remain operational on orbit. Build one and see seems to be the SpaceX way. Tiles and fins are heavy and expensive.

    1. It’s not just Ship 26. The same thing is being done to 27.

      Well that further reinforces my thoughts they are not ready for orbital recovery yet.

      1. Probably not, but…the truth is, the need to demonstrate propellant transfer on-orbit really is a higher priority right now.

        So I think that’s what SpaceX is prioritizing right now as the next step after getting to orbit.

        Recovery and reusability are “nice to haves” for HLS (or indeed Starlink deployments), but they are not *necessary* at this juncture.

  5. No one thinks it is coming back but all of the suggestions of what the purpose is lack the sense of humor that guides a lot of Musk’s decisions. Will this be a purely practical launch or will there be some flair?

  6. Lest we forget, in-ship tank to tank cryo transfer in the amount of 10 tons is a NASA award to SpaceX in the amount of $53mln. Expend a stripped down upper stage and a few obsolete Raptor engines, make money and take an opportunity to practice booster recovery. This could wind up being the first SH chopsticks catch attempt, assuming B7 goes in the drink as planned. B7 and B8 are already obsolete.

    1. Probably, but wouldn’t cost much to do 50 tons of LOX and 50 tons might have some actual value in orbit.

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