The SpaceX Corporation is making progress on its novel Starship rocket one move at a time. Serial Number 15 (SN15), the most recent SpaceX’s Starship prototype, has just completed a successful high-altitude ascent and landing.
— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) May 5, 2021
The four previous research artefacts all encountered difficulties during their touchdown manoeuvres, eventually damaging themselves. SN15, on the other hand, had no such issues, landing safely and in a regulated manner at SpaceX’s R&D facility in Texas.
On landing, a small fire licked around the vehicle’s foundation, but it was quickly extinguished. The Starship idea has sparked a lot of interest now that NASA has decided to use it to land astronauts on the Moon later this decade. Lunar missions will be only one of the potential uses for SpaceX’s Starship new system.
Predictions about the Starship
Starships are expected to take the place of the company’s Falcon rockets. Daily Nasa flights, both crewed and uncrewed, as well as satellite deployments for the US military and other commercial operators, are carried out by these existing vehicles.
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, predicts that the new 50-meter-high Starship will do it all, bigger and better – and not just on Earth; he claims that the technology would enable people to travel to Mars.
Scheduling of NASA flights
The test on Wednesday went just like the previous concept flights. The uncrewed SN15 ascended vertically on the thrust of three methane-burning Raptor engines after leaving its launch mount at the Boca Chica facility.
As the vehicle reached the target height of approximately 10km (6.2 miles), these power units shut down in series, and the vehicle leaned over into the horizontal for the descent to the ground.
This belly-flop descent, which is operated by large flaps on either end of the spacecraft, is meant to mimic how potential operating Starships would re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere from orbit, by presenting a large surface area to the direction of travel to reduce speed.
Just before hitting the surface, the vehicle is expected to go back to a tail-down configuration. SN8, SN9, SN10, and SN11 were unable to complete the process and were killed just before, during, or shortly after touchdown. SN15, on the other hand, made a flawless vertical flip and landed softly on its stubby legs.
Advancements to be introduced in the starship
More designs are in different stages of development at SpaceX. Engineers are learning how to develop and fly the rockets as they iterate on the concept.
Operational Starships would finally be launched atop the Super Heavy booster. This could include up to 28 Raptors, each capable of generating more than 70 meganewtons (16 million lbs) of thrust, roughly double that of the Apollo Saturn 5 rocket that launched men to the Moon.
Starship serial number 15 (SN15) completed SpaceX’s fifth high-altitude flight test of a SpaceX’s Starship prototype from Starbase in Texas on Wednesday, May 5.
SN15 was guided through ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee – approximately 10 km in altitude – similar to previous high-altitude Starship flight tests. Until reorienting itself for reentry and controlled aerodynamic descent, SN15 performed a propellant transfer to the internal header tanks, which carry landing propellant.