Update November 17, 2023: SpaceX has postponed the launch of the Starship rocket by one day. This postponement, announced by Elon Musk, director of the company, is linked to technical problems requiring the replacement of an essential part for stabilizing the stages during descent. The success of this launch, now scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. French time, will represent a crucial step for humanity’s space ambitions. It could indeed pave the way for manned missions to the Moon and, in the longer term, to Mars, thus redefining our approach toexploration spatial.
SpaceX’s advancement into a new chapter in space exploration has reached a crucial milestone with the validation of its water deluge system by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This authorization, as well as that of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), paves the way for the second launch of the Starship, a very ambitious space launcher promising to significantly reduce the cost of access to space.
The Starship ready to take off, full tanks, for its first test flight in April 2023
This development could shake up space exploration, envisioning missions to the Moon, Mars and other far-flung destinations in our solar system. The water system, set up to control the immense power of the launch vehicle’s 33 Raptor engines during liftoff, was the subject of an extensive investigation by the USFWS. This investigation aimed to assess possible biological and environmental effects.
The FAA, after review, issued SpaceX the necessary license for its mission. This approval covers all operational phases, from takeoff in Boca Chica, Texas, to landings in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
The environmental assessment found that the water deluge system poses no greater risk to the environment than a typical summer downpour. Indeed, a typical rainstorm in Boca Chica would dump more water than theactivation of the flood system. Therefore, the amount of water released from this system is unlikely to change the water quality of surrounding areas.
The long-awaited Starship launch is now scheduled for Saturday, November 18 at 8:00 a.m. local time, or 2:00 p.m. in France, with the launch window ending two hours later. This launch marks not only technical progress, but also a giant step forward for Elon Musk’s space ambitions.
The Starship reusable super-heavy launcher
The Starship represents a leap forward in the field of space launch vehicles thanks to its fully reusable design. This system consists of two main elements: the Super Heavy booster and the Starship itself (the same name as the booster + ship assembly).
The Super Heavy, the first stage of the launcher, is designed to provide the thrust needed to escape the Earth’s atmosphere. It is equipped with several Raptor engines, known for their power and efficiency. After completing its task, this booster returns to Earth for reuse, with the aim of reducing the costs of space missions.
The Starship vessel, for its part, is intended to carry out the main part of the mission, whether to transport cargo, crews to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, or for other long-distance missions in the solar system. Its full reuse capability and versatility make it a key part of SpaceX’s vision to make space exploration more accessible.
Comparison with the Saturn V of the Apollo missions, the most powerful rocket to reach orbit to date
SpaceX’s Starship and NASA’s legendary Saturn V embody landmark milestones in the history of space exploration, each reflecting the technological advancements of their era. Let’s compare these two space giants.
The Starship is the largest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever designed. Note that the Long March 9, which rivals the Starship in size and payload, is not yet completed and is due to make its first flight in 2030.
The height of the Starship reaches approximately 121 meters, surpassing the 110 meters of the Saturn V. Although the Saturn V has a slightly larger diameter, 10 meters compared to 9 meters for the Starship, it is in the empty weight that the difference is widening: the Starship weighs 330 tonnes, while the Saturn V weighs “only” 207 tonnes. The Starship is designed to carry a larger payload, ranging from 110 to 165 tons depending on the mission, compared to the Saturn V’s 48 to 118 tons.
In terms of human capacity, the Starship marks significant progress with the possibility of carrying up to 100 passengers, compared to only 3 for the Apollo modules of the Saturn V. This development is crucial for future long-duration missions and projects of colonization of Mars dear to Elon Musk.
The Starship generates a prodigious thrust of approximately 7,700 tons, considerably more than the 4,500 tons of the Saturn V. It uses methane and liquid oxygen as fuel and oxidizer, while the Saturn V used a mixture of kerosene, d liquid hydrogen and oxygen.
Finally, construction materials differ significantly: the Starship is constructed of stainless steel, opting for strength and durability, while the Saturn V used aluminum, titanium, and asbestos panels, reflecting the materials and methods of construction. its time.
Designed by SpaceX, Starship symbolizes the evolution of rocket design since the Saturn V, developed by NASA. These two space launchers, each in their own way, have redefined and continue to influence our ability to explore space.
SpaceX’s water deluge system
The water deluge system is a crucial element in heavy rocket launches like SpaceX’s Starship. This system, often seen in spectacular images of space launches, plays an essential role in protecting the rocket and its launch platform.
An impressive crater formed under the launch pad during the first test flight. The concrete on the ground was blown away, as was part of the infrastructure to support the enormous rocket. The foundations and the metal frame are exposed in places.
In April 2023, during the historic first flight of SpaceX’s Starship, a crucial detail was missing: the water deluge system. This absence had significant consequences. Without the cooling and vibration attenuation provided by such a system, the launch pad suffered considerable damage.
The intensity of the launcher’s propulsion created an impressive crater just beneath the rocket, a testament to the brute force of the Raptor engines. In addition, concrete blocks were thrown forcefully throughout the area, damaging numerous installations such as propellant tanks. This incident highlighted the crucial importance of safety and protection systems in space operations, especially for launchers of such power.
Some tanks intended to store the rocket’s propellants have been bent, the four in the front line are riddled with impacts.
Theresa Cross/Space Explored
The water deluge system is designed to mitigate the extreme forces generated during rocket liftoff. When a rocket like SpaceX’s Starship launches, its engines produce not only immense thrust but also a considerable amount of heat and vibration. Without adequate protection, these forces could damage the rocket itself as well as the launch platform.
Just before and during the launch, large quantities of water are sprayed onto the launch area. This water absorbs part of the heat and reduces vibrations by “drowning” the shock wave produced by the engines. The result is a significant reduction in the risk of damage.
Testing the new water deluge system for the Starship.
This system is not exclusive to SpaceX; it is a standard component of rocket launch sites around the world. However, its application by SpaceX for the Starship, a particularly powerful launch vehicle, demonstrates engineering adapted to the modern challenges of space exploration.
Gn Fr tech