SpaceX Prepares for First Attempt of Starship SN8's High-Altitude Flight Test

25 Janvier, 2021, 08:37 | Auteur: Therese Cote

SpaceX was forced to delay its recent Starship rocket launch, but the issue with the Raptor engines was sorted out in time for the second launch window yesterday (December 9th) afternoon.

The height the rocket reached was not the only new aspect of Wednesday's test flight.

Previous versions of the in-development Starship have only managed very short hops at no more than a few hundred feet above the ground.

This was by far the most complex Starship test flight to date.

Once in final production and out of the prototype phase, the massive launch system will likely replace Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy once their operational lifespans are deemed obsolete by SpaceX and may even jockey with SLS for the task of taking NASA to the moon and beyond.

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The self-guided rocket blew up as it touched down on a landing pad following a controlled descent.

A statement on the SpaceX website said the Starship had "successfully ascended, transitioned propellant, and performed its landing flip manoeuvre with precise flap control to reach its landing point".

Any future starship rocket will be equipped with 37 engines instead of nine, and will be 120 meters (390 feet) high and capable of carrying 100 tons of cargo into orbit around the earth. A header tank is a reservoir of fuel that is specifically created to help maintain that pressure. Musk, too, downplayed the crash as he tweeted, "Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD, but we got all the data we needed!" This affected the amount of thrust they could provide, which prevented them from slowing the vehicle down sufficiently for a proper landing.

As for the "RUD" that Musk referred to: he is talking about the explosion, or "Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly". This is the first time this maneuver has been attempted by a vehicle of this size, with SN8 then using its flaps to reorient itself to an upright position ahead of a landing attempt. Before launch, Musk only gave a one-in-three chance that Starship would complete all of its mission objectives. "This suborbital flight is created to test a number of objectives, from how the vehicle's three Raptor engines perform, and the overall aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle, including its body flaps, to how the vehicle manages propellant transition", SpaceX had said before the launch.



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