SpaceX's Prototype Starship Mk1 Receives Its Last Steel Dome

Starship Mk1 is being prepared for first orbital flight and eventually for its 2021 maiden voyage.

Last Saturday, the 14th of September, saw the third and last steel dome placed atop SpaceX's Starship Mk1 by its South Texas technicians. The team used a new way of integrating the dome on the prototype, which is meant to undergo its first test run next month

SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, is due to unveil the new integration system in a speech on September 28th, before the launch, which is currently due on October 13th. 

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What just happened to the Starship Mk1?

It looks like this final dome is the final piece to be added to the top of the Starship Mk1 before the conical tip can be added, and the Starship's internal build begins. 

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This upper dome is where the Starship Mk1's liquid oxygen tank will be placed. 

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This monumental moment means that the spacecraft's engine and tank section are essentially ready — the only other potential changes could be to the external hardware to the dome. 

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Why is this a unique approach?

Typically, SpaceX installations have been lowered onto the spacecraft's cylindrical tank sections. Following that, steel domes are welded onto the side of the tank while being supported and held in place by a large crane. 

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The difference this time around is that SpaceX technicians first welded the upper tank dome to its other ringed sections as they remained on the ground. Only after the sections had already been neatly and carefully welded together, was the entire section fitted to the top of the Starship Mk1. 

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It's unsure if that was always the plan in the assembly of this section. 

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Previous comments from Elon Musk have not cleared it up — whether the two competing teams were working towards completing the dome's assembly strategy in this manner, or if this decision changed within the last month or two. The two groups of SpaceX technicians have been fighting against time to come up with the best building and design solutions for the Starship Mk1.

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All the welding, fitting, and attachments work was done at ground level this time around, keeping the work safer and easier than if it had been completed up in the air, suspended above the ground.

This may be a new and improved method of building certain parts of the spacecraft.

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