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SpaceX Unveils Starship Tank Prototype, to Assess Upgraded Domes

Yusuf Balogun
Yusuf Balogun
Yusuf is a law graduate and freelance journalist with a keen interest in tech reporting.

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In a bid to assess the upgraded domes, the American spacecraft manufacturer, SpaceX has announced the unveiling of the Starship tank prototype. The prototype has been in the developing stage for several months and was spotted floating around Starbase.

The prototype, which is just known as “EDOME” according to a tracking sticker pinned on its side, appears to be rather ordinary on the surface and might easily be mistaken for the newest in a long line of nine ‘test tanks’ SpaceX has already built, tested, and occasionally destroyed.

Under the conventional façade of nine-meter-wide steel rings and stringers, two tank domes are a substantial design shift from the dozens of domes SpaceX has built and tested over the last two years.

A big part of the dome redesign was centered on making them considerably easier to produce, similar to a new nosecone design that SpaceX only began testing for the first time a few days ago. The first improved Starship is currently under construction.

A big part of the dome redesign was centered on making them considerably easier to produce, similar to a new nosecone design that SpaceX only began testing for the first time a few days ago. Around the turn of the year, work on the first improved Starship nose prototypes began in earnest.

The improved domes took a little longer to develop, with the first completed prototype showing in mid-March. To some extent, the redesigned dome went even further than SpaceX’s relatively modest nose redesign, reducing the structure to just one key component.

SpaceX’s dome redesign appears to have decreased the number of stacked parts from three to one, although the nose redesign simplified nose assembly from five to three different stacked sets of welded ‘gores,’ or tapering slices of metal. In comparison to the nearly 40 different pieces and three stacks required for each older dome, the new dome design should only require 18 ‘gores’ and one small cap.

SpaceX has also improved the design’s efficiency while still making it significantly easier to assemble because of the new dome’s more hemispherical form. Despite being substantially smaller than the previous design, the new dome should be able to contain nearly the same quantity of propellant.

It won’t be long after the tank arrives at SpaceX’s Starbase launch and test facilities on June 8th before it begins its first test campaign. SpaceX may begin with a pneumatic or water test to check for leaks and ensure basic structural integrity, or it may proceed straight to cryogenic pressure/stress testing with liquid nitrogen, as it has in the past.

While the primary purpose of any test tank is to learn about new hardware, the best-case scenario would be for the tank to either survive or be destroyed well above the maximum pressure it was built to withstand. Starship tanks were intended to operate at 6.5 bar by 2020, with the ability to withstand up to 8-8.5 bar.

Before the end of today, the Starship S24 is scheduled to return to Starbase’s build site for final assembly, allowing SpaceX to test the EDOME tank during one or more 12-hour test windows scheduled for June 13th, 14th, and 15th. Follow TechGenyz for more latest updates.


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