“Starship, Elon Musk’s Rocket, Set for Its Second Flight”

“Starship, Elon Musk’s Rocket, Set for Its Second Flight”

American entrepreneur Elon Musk is set to make another attempt at launching his colossal new rocket, Starship. The initial flight in April concluded dramatically as the vehicle lost control and exploded just four minutes after liftoff in Texas. Debris from the 120-meter-tall (393-foot) rocket fell into the Gulf of Mexico. In response, engineers at Musk’s SpaceX company have implemented “more than a thousand” modifications to Starship’s systems, aiming to enhance the vehicle’s reliability for the upcoming launch.

The lift-off from the coastal town of Boca Chica is scheduled to take place within a 20-minute window, commencing at 07:00 local time (13:00 GMT). The planned mission profile remains largely consistent with the previous attempt: launching the top part of the two-stage vehicle, known as the Ship, on nearly one full orbit around Earth.

The objective is for the uncrewed craft to execute an ocean splashdown near Kauai, one of the islands in the Hawaiian archipelago.

The successful implementation of Starship as designed would be revolutionary. A fully reusable rocket, capable of placing over a hundred tonnes in orbit in a single launch, could significantly reduce the cost of space activities. Moreover, it would support Elon Musk’s ambitions to realize the longstanding dream of sending people and supplies to Mars, ultimately establishing a human settlement on the red planet.

Elon Musk adheres to the mantra “test early, break it, and learn,” and the engineers at his SpaceX company had plenty of lessons to absorb following the initial flight test in April.

During Starship’s first flight, the fiery exhaust created a substantial hole beneath the launch pad, sending debris scattering in all directions. Subsequent scientific analysis revealed that the forces generated by the vehicle’s first-stage engines were comparable to those encountered in an erupting volcano.

“The rocket exhaust penetrated cracks in the launchpad’s concrete. With temperatures reaching approximately 2,000 degrees Celsius, it vaporized the groundwater,” clarified Dr. Phil Metzger from the University of Central Florida.

“We utilized equations commonly employed in the study of volcanoes to project the speed at which ejecta would travel – at a rate of 90 meters per second,” he informed BBC News.

In response to this issue, engineers have implemented a solution in the form of a steel plate structure at the launch pad, described as resembling an upside-down showerhead. This structure is designed to create substantial water fountains during lift-off, aiming to mitigate the heat and noise associated with the rocket’s exhaust.

In recent months, SpaceX has focused on enhancing the performance of Starship’s methane-burning Raptor engines. The lower stage, known as the Super Heavy booster, is equipped with 33 of these engines. During the vehicle’s ascent, observers noted that several engines ceased operation, potentially due to damage caused by flying debris during launch.

During a mission, the two halves of Starship are intended to separate a couple of minutes after the Super Heavy booster completes its primary task of propelling all the hardware into the air. However, in April, this detachment event did not occur as planned. Additionally, the automated command to destroy the struggling vehicle with explosive charges proved unsuccessful. Consequently, the rocket eventually disintegrated after tumbling end over end.

For the upcoming flight, a new approach is being implemented for stage separation. The Ship segment will ignite its engines just before separation to propel itself clear. To prevent the hot exhaust gases from the engines from burning through the top of the booster, a slotted ring has been added to the area surrounding the engines.

"Starship, Elon Musk's Rocket, Set for Its Second Flight"

Commentators believe that surpassing the stage separation will be the minimum requirement for SpaceX to showcase progress with their innovative vehicle.

Malcolm Macdonald, a professor of space technology at the University of Strathclyde, UK, commented, “I think you have to step beyond that this time. You have to go from the point where you get all of the engines lit, you get to altitude with that capability, you get the separation, and then you progress from there to perhaps failure further in the timeline.”

For the upcoming flight, a new approach is being implemented for stage separation. The Ship segment will ignite its engines just before separation to propel itself clear. To prevent the hot exhaust gases from the engines from burning through the top of the booster, a slotted ring has been added to the area surrounding the engines.

Commentators believe that surpassing the stage separation will be the minimum requirement for SpaceX to showcase progress with their innovative vehicle.

Malcolm Macdonald, a professor of space technology at the University of Strathclyde, UK, commented, “I think you have to step beyond that this time. You have to go from the point where you get all of the engines lit, you get to altitude with that capability, you get the separation, and then you progress from there to perhaps failure further in the timeline.”

If the Ship segment doesn’t successfully reach the waters off Hawaii and faces potential disintegration mid-flight, Garrett Reisman, a professor of astronautical engineering at the University of Southern California, advises against hasty judgments.

“I think the benefit of this rapid development approach is even though things don’t look good at first, when things are blowing up – you learn so much and so quickly that you actually do converge on the correct solution much faster than if you try to get something 100% perfect the first time,” he conveyed to BBC News.

"Starship, Elon Musk's Rocket, Set for Its Second Flight"

Reisman further noted, “SpaceX does seem to get there in the end.”

 

 

 

 

 

(Source: BBC and Other Media)