the giant Starship launcher prepares for its test flight

SpaceX’s giant launch vehicle, Starship, has been assembled at its Starbase launch pad. He is ready for his test flight, which will take place after two important tests. A one-time repetition of the launch procedure and a static ignition of all 33 main stage engines.

On 9 January 2023, SpaceXSpaceX assembled on its launch pad the two parts of SpaceshipSpaceship, its future giant launcher 120 meters tall! The top stage, which is the transport vehicle and is called Starship, was installed on the Super Heavy main stage, i.e. boosterbooster needed to launch the Starship.

It is the third time since August 2021 that the two parts of the launcher have been joined together to form the starship launcher. The first two times they were stacked on top of each other. This time they are gathered (or in the process of being gathered). The two parts of the launcher were assembled using the “chopstick” arms of the huge crane nicknamed Mechazilla and built by SpaceX in duplicate: one at Boca Chica in Texas, the other at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Elon Musk expects the starship’s maiden flight to take place within weeks, in March. Before then, two main decisive tests must be passed. A starting timeline repeat with padding (wet dress rehearsal, in NASA jargon), which will consist of filling the tanks and performing all stages prior to takeoff, but will stop before the end of the countdown. This will be followed by a static ignition of the 33 Raptor engines on the main stage. It will be the first time that all of the Super Heavy’s engines are fired at once. A previous test was carried out with “only” 14 engines.

From Texas to the Hawaiian Islands

This first test flight is planned to last more or less 90 minutes. The spacecraft will be launched into orbit by the Super Heavy launch vehicle approximately nine minutes after liftoff and will fly to the Hawaiian Islands with a passage through space, but without achieving a full orbit around Earth. If all goes as planned, the main stage of the Super Heavy will return to land on dry land, which will not be the case for the starship. After an atmospheric re-entry, it was supposed to sink in the open ocean off the coast of Hawaii after a controlled landing. In early 2021, Elon MuskElon Musk explained that ” if he didn’t expect some special problems during the start of Super Heavy and Starship “, he had on the other hand admitted that it will probably take” many trials before SpaceX perfected the starship’s re-entry and landing maneuvers from orbit “.

Fly a multi-engine launcher

To understand the difficulty of getting a multi-engine launch vehicle to fly, it is necessary to know that from one engine to another, the level of combustioncombustion is never the same and is very difficult to model, hence the importance of the ground tests and the experience gained from the flights of the Falcon 9, whose main stage has nine engines, and Falcon HeavyFalcon Heavy and its 3×9 engines — its main stage and consists of three Falcon 9 main stages.

Each engine’s jet does not mean that these jets work together as if they were separate engines. These jets will interact with each other and this can pose many aerodynamic constraints, especially laterally, and therefore hinder ascent of the machine. One of the jets can also shut down another engine jet! Another problem is the orientation of the motors. It’s obviously not the same to have three engines instead of just one! With some debitsdebits important, suction can occur in the skirt and create a vacuum effect.

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