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SpaceX's first orbital spacecraft begins assembly after the steel heat shield passes the tests



SpaceX chief Elon Musk says company employees in South Texas have already begun producing the first orbital-class Starship prototype, while engineers and technicians at Hawthorne are just beginning to test the unprecedented stainless steel stainless steel heat shield.

To be composed of (presumably) stainless steel hexagonal tiles, the metallic heat shield of Starship will be one of the most important aspects of orbital spacecraft, especially in view of its extremely easy reuse. In order to survive extreme reentry conditions between the planets between Mars and Earth and beyond, and remain in a functional, airworthy state after landing, SpaceX must implement the world's first metallic orbital-class heat shield with an immature technology known as transpirational cooling ,

By literally drilling tiny holes (pores) in heat shield plates on the hottest parts of Starship's hull, transpirational cooling effectively removes much of the reentry heat by evaporating a liquid, typically water. For the SpaceX spaceship, it is likely that the coolant of choice is either liquid water or liquid methane, the former offering better cooling per unit mass, resulting in additional water installation complexity and spaceship mass, while the latter requires the use of the spaceship. which pollutes the ship with fuel, costs a worse cooling per unit mass. In any case, SpaceX will venture into untried territory and demand extensive ground and flight testing to first ensure that the concept is truly feasible, and then verify that it can be made as reliable and reusable as it needs to be.

Tests such as those shown by Musk on March 1

7 show that SpaceX is indeed deeply involved in the process of extensive and often destructive testing, which has proven to be particularly good. It is unclear whether the above-described test of Starship hexagonal heat shields – probably made from a 300 series stainless steel variant – includes active or passive cooling tiles. However, Musk suggested that the hot spots produced by rotary burners reached temperatures up to 1650 Kelvin (1400 ° C). Unlike the ablative heat signs, SpaceX knows how to build and operate Crew and Cargo Dragon spacecraft. It is expected that a stainless steel heat shield during extreme altitudes almost completely withstands erosion (ie ablation) speed ingresses of at least 12-14 km / s (40,000 km / h, Mach 40+).

In the meantime, Musk also confirmed that SpaceX has decided to skip the construction of a replacement Noseecone / fairing for Starhopper, a working Starship prototype, with extremely short hop testing done will be the development of Falcon 9's Grasshopper and F9R test items. Over the last few weeks, SpaceX technicians have assembled the original Musc replacement cover in no time. Instead, the duo is made of stainless steel running profiles, relying on steel, which is much thinner than the high-performance material used in the construction of Starhopper, apparently the inception of Orbital's first Starship prototype, which Musk was aiming for as early as June 2019 around two months.

It's still an extraordinarily ambitious target for a vehicle that does not yet have integrated hops or flight In any form, the fact that SpaceX may end February began construction of the first Orbital Starship, actually giving the company's engineers and technicians the chance to complete Starhopper testing and Starship assembly over the next 90-100 days.

If the two new steel sections were stacked one above the other, they would probably have a solid height of 20 to 30 meters (65 to 100 feet). Meanwhile, the first orbital tank domes and / or the conical nose sections are also welded together from smaller segments so that they soon approach something that can be installed inside the steel pipe sections.

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