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Humanity's most powerful rocket has completed three new breakthroughs! SpaceX: More Starships are ready(1)

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Author : Jazmyn
Update time : 2024-03-27 09:19:06

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On March 14, SpaceX got its best birthday gift—the successful third orbital test launch of Starship. On this day 22 years ago, Musk started his aerospace entrepreneurship in a warehouse in California, USA. Over the past 22 years, after experiencing numerous setbacks, he has now successfully launched the world's largest rocket into orbit.

In this historic test flight, the starship completed three breakthroughs in one fell swoop: the spacecraft entered the established low-Earth orbit, the load bay door switch test (future deployment of Starlink satellites), and the internal fuel transfer test (future space refueling). These new test subjects are key steps for starships to become interstellar travel tools in the future. SpaceX has always adhered to the concept of "flying instead of testing," and each test launch must incorporate more test items to improve the design and test data of the starship quickly.

 
Starship launched into space, source: spaceX


The only regret is that neither the starship nor the superheavy booster landed as planned.

At the end of the mission, Musk posted on the social platform X: Starship will make life multiplanetary. Progress is mixed with setbacks, and the 22-year-old SpaceX is still moving forward through trial and error and iteration. As they wrote on their official website: More starships are ready for flight.

 

A confident launch

After dozens of explosions and countless improvements, high hopes have been placed on this starship launch. Musk himself said before the launch that the rocket was better than the first and second test flights. There was a 70% to 80% chance that this test flight could reach Earth orbit.

According to SpaceX, every launch is regarded as a field test, and each flight mission is accompanied by detailed data collection and subsequent analysis. Those tasks that once seemed impossible, through continuous trial and error and optimization, are gradually becoming a reality.

The first starship launch now seems to be an experiment that seemed like death.

On April 20, 2023, the fully integrated Starship carried out its first orbital-level test flight mission. However, it encountered problems shortly after liftoff. Several engines lost control a few minutes after launch. SpaceX issued a self-destruct command, and then the Starship Disintegrated and exploded over the Gulf of Mexico.
 

 

The launch event caused serious damage to ground facilities. A huge crater was blown out of the launch pad, and debris was scattered into a small town about 5 miles away from the launch site. This incident immediately aroused regulatory scrutiny. Later investigations revealed that the Starship's Raptor engine cluster exerted tremendous heat and pressure on the launch pad, ultimately causing the concrete structure to crack.

To this end, SpaceX upgraded the launch pad and added a water immersion system, which was ultimately able to withstand the ultra-high temperatures when 33 Raptor engines were started at the same time. In addition, the starship'sstarship's primary and secondary separation methods were also upgraded after the first launch. SpaceX introduced a new "thermal staging" technology to ignite the six Raptor engines of the upper stage before staging. Before the second launch in November last year, Musk said that SpaceX Starship had implemented more than 1,000 upgrades and improvements and made 63 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-mandated corrections to improve flight safety and performance.

 

Starship is on standby at the launch site before the second launch. Source: SpaceX


However, this did not result in a successful launch. Although the rocket successfully ignited and took off, all 33 engines were successfully started according to the predetermined procedures. However, after the first-stage rocket completed its predetermined working stage, a technical failure occurred in the second-stage rocket, causing the communication with the ground control center to be interrupted, resulting in an explosion in the air. However, the second launch of the Starship still achieved a key technical milestone: after a series of technical optimizations, this launch did not cause damage to the launch pad; in addition, the Starship and the booster rocket successfully performed a "thermal separation" operation.

After the second ship-to-ship launch, the FAA stepped in and worked with SpaceX to investigate the entire flight process. "The flight of Starship 2 has almost reached its planned orbit," Musk said in an internal discussion at the beginning of the year. The situation is very interesting. He believes that if the mission carried a payload, the starship may have successfully entered orbit. The ultimate failure was due to the liquid oxygen discharge operation of the starship, which eventually caused a fire and subsequent explosion. If the spacecraft carries a payload, this step usually does not occur.

Although the third test launch also had no payload, the starship needed to enter the intended orbit accurately. The outside world seems confident in this final goal. This is indeed the case. The starship that flew for the third time completed the above-mentioned mission but lost its signal during the final re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere and failed to make the final controlled landing into the sea.

In addition, SpaceX has superimposed multiple missions on the upper stage of Starship 3, including internal fuel transfer, load bay door opening and closing, engine vacuum ignition, and re-entry testing. Among them, during the fuel transfer test, about 10 tons of liquid oxygen were transferred from one storage tank to another. This was the first time in history, and the scale was unprecedented. The ultimate goal is to realize the starship's "tanker" to replenish in orbit, using a method similar to the aerial refueling of aircraft, and ultimately be able to fly farther into deep space. Although this test will not involve the direct rendezvous of the two starships in space, the phased testing involved in this mission is still an important part of this key technology.

SpaceX also has four starships that have completed or are nearing completion of construction. After this flight test, subsequent starships are expected to carry out more intensive launch missions.


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