After sending the Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, SpaceX has returned to Earth to advance its ambitious interplanetary ship project. In a tweet, Elon Musk showed how Starship’s heat shield passed a crucial test for its reentry into the atmosphere.
As you can see in the video, a series of torches heated the ceramic tiles of the shield to temperatures of up to 1650 degrees Kelvin (or 1377 ºC), similar to the heat they would suffer in an orbital flight atmospheric reentry.
According to Musk himself, the tiles have that hexagonal shape so as not to provide the hot gas with a straight path through which to accelerate through the gaps. They are only installed on the windward side (the one that hits the atmosphere) because the leeward side does not need thermal protection.
According to Musk, the hottest sections of the shield will also have a “cooling by transpiration” system with microscopic pores through which water or methane will come out to cool the outside. The objective is to minimize the damage of the Starship so that the ship can fly again immediately after its landing without further reconditioning than filling the tank.
On Friday, residents of Boca Chica Village, in Texas, were warned that SpaceX would close a local beach for a test to be held as of this week. The CEO of the aerospace company later confirmed that this is the first test flight of the Starhopper (the experimental prototype of the Starship ship), but warned that before they will have to solve several problems of integration of the engines and the stage. “It will take off, but very little,” he added.
Starhopper is an experimental ship as was Grasshopper for the Falcon 9. The first flights of the Grasshopper occurred between 2012 and 2013 and were low altitude and low speed, but had a fundamental value for the development of reusable rockets Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. Just for the design that reminds of black and white science fiction movies, it will be worth following those first “jumps” of the ship that could take us to Mars.