The continuous testing of the Starbase's suborbital launch has lead SpaceX to finally launch the first Starship prototype on the orbital space as part of the company's first test campaign.
Starship 20 or SN20 was able to launch from its assembly line for the first time back in the third quarter. During its first attempt, the SN20 was able to fly from the Starbase launch site up through some kilometers of the South Texas Highway. In this initial examination, SpaceX already equipped Ship 20 of the anticipated Super Heavey Booster 4. This booster is essential to the following projects Elon Musk informed that their company will eventually run in the future, including the rocket's debut to the orbital flight. After the test, Ship 20 was again reconfigured in the Starbase for additional weeks.
Starship SN20 Orbital Launch Tests
According to Teslarati, the latest update from Starbase confirmed that the Starship SN20 will be presented in one or two suborbital launch tests. These supporting tests will then be followed by a six-week break to allow the SpaceX experts to work through the upper stage of the estimated 50-meter spacecraft. These steps successfully passed a series of qualification tests that the previous SpaceX crafts were able to pass without recurring problems.
SpaceX's two whole months of preparing the Super Heavy and Starship have born fruit as the Starship SN20 presented unexpected fragile heat shield tiles. The ship's dramatic exhibition was explained by Elon Musk himself, saying that the tiles jetted by the spacecraft were due to the cold gas stuck in a high-pressure thruster.
The loss of several heat shields supported the fact that the Starship SN20 was yet to meet the required pressure and cryogenics. The thermal contraction of the steel that takes place in an environment that has extremely low temperatures could significantly change the massive rocket's diameter and cluster the tiles altogether. With the event, Starship's own ceramic heat shield tiles are deemed fragile. Other parts were also found to shatter and chip off after they were attached to Starship.
Thermal Protection System Repair
What separates the Starship's structure from traditional rockets is that SpaceX confidently mounted the heat shield directly with the surface of the propellant tanks made of thin steel. This thin layer also serves as the cover for the rocket's overall airframe. The bold move was seemingly expected by the company's experts and had their robots weld the exterior issues.
Starship's unique thermal protection system or TPS is surprisingly simple compared to the complex sheets that cover the entire International Space station and Russia's Buran. SpaceX followed the mending of the sheet issue and seemed to have been resolved, as the starship SN20 was recently able to perform a 9-hour test window. The loss of numerous tiles allowed the experts to identify the thermal and mechanical workarounds of the issue. However, if this problem persists, the TPS technology may hinder SpaceX projects in the future by redesigning their models and could push the launch away from the expected schedules.
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