SpaceX Launch Pad
SpaceX Center | Image credit: @jboursier/Unsplash

SpaceX building GSE tanks for launchpad out of Starship- a smart and cost-efficient move

Author at TechGenyz Space

SpaceX has always been the first to develop numerous innovative ideas and successful space projects since its foundation. Now, they have started to build their very own launchpad GSE tank using the parts of Starship and install the very first tank at its first orbital South Texas launch facilities. This may seem a very ordinary act to some, but; it is indeed a smart move because it can save a hefty amount of money.

 The GSE or Ground, support equipment tanks are used for the re-supply of the fuels for launches. If the company opted for new tanks, it would have cost a huge amount per se. Instead of doing that, SpaceX has gone ahead building its own Ground support equipment tanks.

Since the tanks are being made out of Starship, they are virtually identical. It seems that SpaceX has been taking identical rocket parts and turning them into a propellant storage tank after tweaking a handful of those parts.

This is not the first time SpaceX has come up with a revolutionary idea.  Previously, SpaceX has quickly developed the ability to build steel rockets larger than any other launch vehicle on Earth for a lesser price. Instead of carbon fiber, Starship was made of stainless steel, which guaranteed less cost, much strength, and production ease.

Now those very parts will save millions of dollars for SpaceX as they will be reused for building the propellant storage tanks. Instead of this, if the company went for the other numerous commercial vendors, their industrial demand for practically identical tanks is far higher.

About the SpaceX GSE tanks

The Ground support equipment tanks that are being built by the company would be 9m-wide (30ft) and 27.5m-tall (90ft); and will be divided into seven tanks. These Starship derived tanks will be capable of storing 2200 tons (4.9 million pounds) of sub cooled liquid methane in three tanks and 7300 tons (16.1 million pounds) of liquid oxygen in the other four tanks.

These tanks are now being built at the SpaceX’s South Texas rocket factory. A total of three GSE tanks are being planned to be built for now- one of which is already preparing for installation while another two are still under construction. This kind of fuel storing capacity will be enough for at least two orbital starship launches.

However, this kind of initial capability wouldn’t be sufficient for missions to Mars, the Moon, or even higher Earth orbits. In these cases, one Starship would need to be rapidly refueled with 3-10+ tanker launches.

Reportedly, a launch facility capable of supporting 5-10 back-to-back launches would require many times more propellant storage. In that case, SpaceX can expand the number of tanks and their capacity in the future to meet their demand.

For now, Starship turned GSE stainless steel tanks will supply the needed fuel for the launches saving millions of dollars for SpaceX.