TechnologyStarship takes off for the second time, and avoids chaos for the...

Starship takes off for the second time, and avoids chaos for the first time

None of the 33 engines on SpaceX’s mega-rocket shut down during liftoff. A major advancement that allowed the mission to avoid ending in an early explosion of the ship and chaos on the launch pad.

At SpaceX Starbase near Boca Chica, Texas, Elon Musk’s aerospace company conducted a second launch for its Starship mega-rocketSaturday November 18.

At 7:03 a.m. local time, 2:03 p.m. in France, it was with the thrust of its 33 engines that the gigantic vessel tore itself from the ground… without tearing down the launch pad in its path. Seven months after a particularly virulent and controversial launch for the safety of residents and the protection of the environment (the launch pad was devastated), SpaceX managed to greatly improve its launcher and propel it to an altitude of nearly 150 kilometers in seven minutes, at more than 24,000 km/h.

Starship is the name given to SpaceX’s largest and most powerful rocket, which includes the Super Heavy launcher, ten times more powerful than a Falcon 9. For this second test, the disintegration of the modules occurred only after the latter had successfully separated, marking a step forward in development compared to the first mission. The theoretical course would have been for the launcher to hover before ending up in the waters of the Pacific, but SpaceX was still pleased with the test, because its separation from the Starship vessel took place without a hitch.

Millions of Internet users followed this manipulation live thanks to a broadcast offered by the company, 2 minutes and 50 seconds after the engines were fired. The mission then ended with the disintegration of the second module, 5 minutes later. The final step in this testing period for Starship will be to return the ship safely to Earth.

© SpaceX

Explosions, but not simultaneous

The incident on the first floor took place while he was continuing its deceleration phase, between 79 and 90 kilometers above sea level. Thirty seconds after its engines cut off and after separating from the second stage, it braked from more than 1,700 km/h. But in a short moment before the explosion, its speed had stabilized without it being low enough to allow it to continue to describe a controlled parabola towards the earth’s surface. A security problem then presented itself.

THE SpaceX Automated Flight Termination System (FTS) would be at the origin of the decision to destroy. It was made popular during Starship’s first launch last April, as it also led to the spectacular explosion which completely destroyed both stages simultaneously. Designed to avoid situations that would endanger people and infrastructure on the ground, it is a system that analyzes the data collected by the sensors and compares them with those of the flight plan to judge whether there is a danger.

In the event of an emergency, small explosive charges installed at strategic locations on the modules allow the structure to be vaporized in no time.

The system was also activated for the second stage after 8 minutes and 3 seconds of flight. Starship’s six engines shut down simultaneously after 24,000 km/h at an altitude of 148 kilometers, and there was not even a question of carrying out a gliding or deceleration phase for a return to the atmosphere. This step should constitute the logical continuation of Starship’s missions, whose final goal and at the same time Martian exploration and the moon landing as part of future Artemis missions.

“Oh f*** they did it!” »reacted on the social network French astronaut Thomas Pesquet. “Congratulations to the whole team”commented Elon Musk, present at the control center during the launch.

The full broadcast of the second Starship launch by SpaceX (liftoff is at 38:40):

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