U.S. space exploration technology company SpaceX has successfully completed its first short-range low-altitude flight test of its full-size starship prototype, and its chief executive, Elon Musk, spoke about the project’s immediate goals in an interview,media reported.
In addition to continuing to refine the design of starcraft and overweight rockets and the processes used to build and test them, SpaceX will conduct several important proofs of concept to demonstrate their confidence in the current spacecraft and rocket architecture, Musk said in an interview after the successful test of the starship’s prototype SN5.
In terms of basic rocket technology, SpaceX’s 150-meter-high test has functionally demonstrated that the company’s unconventional methods of production and assembly of starship can be improved to produce extremely inexpensive orbital-stage rockets. While this is a huge achievement, there is no guarantee that the rockets produced will be reused, let alone faster and easier.
So far, it’s safe to say that SpaceX has solved all the major challenges involved in conventional and reliable recovery and re-use of orbital-stage rocket boosters (first stage), but the starcraft faces many different difficulties.
Even heavier than NASA’s space shuttle, the starship will be almost entirely dependent on unproven in-orbit cryogenic propellant transfer technology to reach beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO). In order to survive re-entering the atmosphere at orbital speed, while still being reused quickly and cheaply, the starship will have to further advance the development of insulation technology.
Last but not least, in the current iteration, the starship landed efficiently on Earth in an unprecedented way of recycling. Musk said SpaceX intends to conduct at least a few more air tests similar to the Starship prototype SN5 “to make the launch go smoothly.”
It’s unclear which prototypes will be involved in the series of tests, but spaceX is satisfied with the status of the launch operation and plans to “fly to the air with the flaps.” Musk has previously said the starship prototypes will be launched into 20 kilometers of air.
After reaching an altitude of 20 kilometers, the starship will drop its belly down, like a skydiver, to an altitude of 1 km, and then try to start a Raptor engine for subduction maneuvers, which will eventually make landfall.
The high-altitude launch and landing demonstration will also be the first time a starship really needs aerodynamic control sie,a fuselage flap to safely complete a flight test. The Starship SN8 will be the first full-size prototype built of different steel alloys and the first to install functional flaps and rectifiers. If the test goes ahead as planned, the SN8 will be the first SpaceX spacecraft to attempt a skydiving landing as described above.
Just hours after the successful launch of the Starship Prototype SN5 in the air, SpaceX began stacking the Starship SN8. Based on past prototype assembly experience, the prototype may reach its final height in a few weeks, but the details of the subsequent rectifier and flap installation remain unclear.