Historic day for space exploration! After seven months of waiting, following a failed first launch in April, SpaceX successfully launched its fully reusable mega rocket called Starship.
With a height of 120 meters, the largest spacecraft ever built in the history of humanity – and the most powerful of all time – took off this Saturday (18), at 10:05 am (Brasilia time), from Starbase , the company’s launch base in Boca Chica, Texas.
The gigantic vehicle complex consists of two stages: the Super Heavy propellant, equipped with 33 raptor engines, and the Starship spacecraft, from which the rocket takes its name, with six engines.
During this so-called second integrated flight test, the prototypes of Booster 9 and Ship 25 were used (which, especially in this case, will not be reused in other flights).
About 2 minutes and 50 seconds after the rocket took off, the two stages separated. B9 was expected to land at a predetermined location in the Gulf of Mexico, while Ship 25’s engines would be fired to push the spacecraft onto its “quasi-orbital” trajectory over the planet, about 235 km altitude. However, something unexpected happened with Super Heavy: nothing that disrupted the process as a whole (and, as yet, unexplained).
At one point there was a disruption in SpaceX’s broadcast signal, accompanied by Elon Musk, the company’s founder and CEO.
About an hour and a half later, the capsule is scheduled to land with the help of a parachute in a gentle dive in the Pacific Ocean, about 35 km from the coast of Hawaii, near the island of Kauai.
Designed specifically to take people and cargo to the Moon and Mars, Starship is also expected to be used for a variety of other tasks, such as launching most of SpaceX’s next-generation Starlink 2.0 internet satellites into Earth orbit.
This historic moment was broadcast in real time across all platforms. – with a presentation by Bruno Capozzi, our executive editor, and Marcelo Zurita, president of the Paraibana Astronomical Association (APA), member of the Brazilian Astronomical Society (SAB) and technical director of the Brazilian Meteorological Observation Network (BRAMON), also with the special participation of the amateur astronomer Luzardo Júnior, university professor, airplane pilot, doctoral student in astrobiology and astronautical coordinator of the Astronomical Studies and Dissemination Group of Londrina/PR (GEDAL).
The launch was scheduled for Thursday (17), but was rescheduled for technical reasons. “We need to replace a grid actuator, so the launch has been postponed until Saturday,” Elon Musk, the company’s founder and CEO, wrote on X (formerly Twitter), without providing further details on the issue.
In late October, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it had completed its Starship safety review, which assesses the risks a launch could pose to public health and property. However, SpaceX still had to wait for the license for a new liftoff, which occurred on Wednesday (15th).
Upgrades have been made by SpaceX since the April accident, both to the vehicle and the launch pad. Some of these adjustments were the result of first flight data, while others were performed in accordance with the 63 corrective actions determined by the FAA.
Among the measures is the implementation of a hot stage separation method, something already used by other rockets. Therefore, as the vehicle approached the separation point, all six upper stage engines ignited while still on the booster. The ring in which the upper stage is positioned allows the gases to expand outwards.
The implementation of electronic thrust vectoring control comes after the explosion rendered a hydraulic power unit inoperative, disabling the ability of the booster’s Raptor engines to control the direction of thrust. With new mounts and engine-controlled electrical systems, engines are now more isolated.
Another essential element from a safety point of view is an updated FTS (Flight Termination System). During the first flight, the destruction of the vehicle occurred 40 seconds after the FTS termination command was sent, an event that should occur instantaneously. The upgrades essentially include more explosives to provide a more guaranteed finish during a potential anomaly.
SpaceX has also installed a number of new measures in and near the launch pad to protect the platform. One of the key additions includes a water-cooled steel plate mounted directly beneath the orbital launch table. Before ignition, water is sprayed from and around the steel plate to provide cooling and soundproofing.
This way, there is no flame trench as seen on other launch pads, so the exhaust gases from the 33 engines will be able to spread in all directions. The steel plate has the function of diverting the flame from immediate contact with the concrete.
Before its April launch, Starship hadn’t left Earth for nearly two years, and its previous flight was just one step closer to the integrated flight test. In May 2021, a prototype three-engine upper stage called SN15 soared about 10 km into the skies above the starbase before returning to Earth in a vertical landing.
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Source: Olhar Digital
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