SpaceX has just submitted its Starship spacecraft to a series of tests which have seen its hexagonal heat shields barraged by heavy amounts of intense flames, and Elon Musk has shared a tantalizing video post of this work which was conducted to prepare the Starship for its future deep-space missions.
As Space reports, the hexagonal heat shield tiles of the Starship will need to be in tip-top shape to protect the spacecraft as it makes its return into the Earth’s atmosphere, which means that SpaceX has been working around the clock to prepare these tiles, along with the spacecraft’s Super Heavy booster, for its future journeys to both Mars and the moon.
On Sunday, March 17, Elon Musk excitedly wrote that his company was “testing Starship heatshield hex tiles,” and shared a video on Twitter of nine hexagonal tiles being shot through with heavy flames.
After this post, Musk stated that the fiery tests of the Starship’s heat shield tiles had been an astounding success, despite enduring heat which reached temperatures of 1,650 degrees Kelvin. To put this into perspective, this is equivalent to 2,510 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1,377 degrees Celsius.
Musk described the hexagon shape of these heat shield tiles as being absolutely perfect, as this particular shape contains “no straight path for hot gas to accelerate through the gaps.”
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) March 22, 2019
However, if subsequent work and tests were ever to show any amount of erosion in these tiles, Elon Musk has noted that SpaceX would quickly include even more cooling systems to ensure that the Starship was adequately protected.
“Transpiration cooling will be added wherever we see erosion of the shield. Starship needs to be ready to fly again immediately after landing. Zero refurbishment.”
Although the hexagonal heat shield tiles of the Starship will be keeping the spacecraft safe upon its re-entry into Earth’s orbit, the polygonal heat shield which encompasses the Super Heavy booster won’t need anything like this to protect it.
According to Musk, “Super Heavy booster is stainless steel. Since it only goes to around Mach 8 or 9, moreover at high altitude, it needs no heat shield, not even paint.”
Testing Starship heatshield hex tiles pic.twitter.com/PycE9VthxQ
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 17, 2019
SpaceX’s Starship, which has been built to hold as many as 100 passengers on its deep-space missions, will measure 387 feet from top to bottom once it is has been placed solidly upon the Super Heavy booster.
If you’re wondering who the first lucky person will be to take a ride in the SpaceX Starship, this will be Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, whom Elon Musk announced last year had already reserved a seat for himself to travel around the moon in this spacecraft.