SpaceX Starship Heat Shield & Hopper Testing Continues
SpaceX continues development on their next generation spacecraft the Starship as new information has been released on Twitter by Elon Musk related to the project.
The first announcement by Musk was the recent testing of the HeatShield which will be used on the future Starship.
Testing Starship heatshield hex tiles pic.twitter.com/PycE9VthxQ— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 17, 2019
The video attached to the tweet shows off SpaceX heating many HeatShield tiles to 1,650 degrees Kelvin (2500 degrees F) to test their ability to cope with the external heat they will encounter when re-entering the Earths atmosphere.
Musk also commented on the shape of the tiles, stating that the hexagon shape is designed to provide no straight path for the hot gas to accelerate through the gaps.
These heat shield tiles will be installed on only one side of the Starship. This side is seen as the black underbelly in the photo below.
Working along with the new heat shield tiles SpaceX has developed a transpiration cooling system which will allow parts of the heat shield to ooze out water or methane thus cooling the heat shield tiles during re-entry. This system would minimize damage on the heat shields and allow the Starship to return to service shortly after landing back on Earth.
"Transpiration cooling will be added wherever we see erosion of the shield" stated Musk, "Starship needs to be ready to fly again immediately after landing. Zero refurbishment."
First Test Flight
SpaceX is also ramping up work on their StarHopper vehicle which is being developed at the SpaceX Texas test site near Boca Chica Beach. This vehicle will be used to test the Starship engines, and the ability for a ship this size to land back on Earth vertically.
SpaceX performed a similar test before developing the vertical landing system we currently see in place on the Falcon 9 Boosters.
StarHopper won't fly far; the first few "flights" may only lift a few feet off the ground as a way to test the stability of the craft before venturing any higher. As SpaceX gets more confidence in the StarHopper and two additional rapper engines are added, we could see the ship travel higher and higher within the Earths atmosphere.
StarHopper is not designed to reach space. It's nearly a test vehicle for vertical landing. Future Starship vehicles will be the first to travel to space and land back on Earth on their own.