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Starship: 4 things to remember from the last (almost) successful launch

© SpaceX

SpaceX has just completed a Starship launch – and succeeded for the first time in reaching orbit in a historic first. However, contact was lost between the vehicle and its booster during the final stages of their re-entry into the atmosphere. Here's what to remember from this launch.

Most of the objectives have been achieved

Overall, SpaceX is for the first time demonstrating launches that will become – imminently – routine. Considered a “partial success”, the launch on March 14, 2024 made it possible to demonstrate the separation of the two stages, and the placing of SpaceX into orbit.

SpaceX plans to make Space Starship a multi-purpose transport to various destinations in the solar system, including the Moon and Mars. But also less distant destinations – by allowing massive grouped launches of satellites, at the same time reducing the costs of putting them into orbit.

Elon Musk has mentioned in the past that Starship could carry up to 100 people on missions to Mars, and its bulky cargo hold is designed to carry a wide variety of payloads, including satellites, supplies, and equipment necessary for long-term missions on other planets.

The final technical characteristics of the launcher may still evolve. But we are talking about a payload of the order of 100 to 150 tonnes in low orbit… noticeably less in transfer orbit, but the terrestrial Starship is only one link in the system that NASA has planned to set foot on the Moon again, and, tomorrow, reach the red planet.

This time, a priori, no huge destruction on the firing point

After Starship's first flight test, the launch pad suffered significant damage, including a large crater dug by the power of the engines during ignition. To address this, SpaceX undertook significant improvements to the launch pad before the final launch.

These improvements included work on the launch pad foundation with the & #8217;addition of reinforced concrete pillars and the installation of a water deluge system to protect the platform from the effects of the Raptor engines during takeoff.

The second takeoff had already demonstrated the effectiveness of these arrangements. A priori, from now on, the final design of the launch pad made it possible to avoid the enormous destruction which had made the FAA scream – the authority which must give the green light for launches in the United States – and introduces deadlines for the second attempt.

Superb images of the plasma surrounding the Starship

Usually, when SpaceX launches a Falcon 9, only the booster returns to Earth, all at a rather modest speed, which avoids forcing SpaceX to equip it with a heat shield. Starship is different, because it is made up of two stages, the second of which is intended to both reach orbit and return to Earth, hurtling through an increasingly dense atmosphere, all at a mind-blowing speed of over Mach 25.

Suddenly, the high-resolution images of the return of the second stage to Earth with the ball of plasma which encompassed it were something unprecedented. Especially since these images were taken and broadcast live from outside the vehicle, during the formation of the plasma resulting from the friction between the rocket and the air.

Plasma being a conductor of electricity, it most often acts as a shield which cuts off communication on the ground. The enormity of the vehicle, however, prevented the formation of plasma over the entire surface of Starship, allowing communication to be maintained for quite a long time.

Until then, the only known images available of the plasma forming during re-entry into the atmosphere showed the phenomenon from inside capsules returning to Earth.

Now, the important thing is not the fall, it's the landing ;#8221;

Alas, while everything was going beyond expectations so far, communication was ultimately lost, both with the booster and the Starship during the final stages of their return to Earth. Enough to suggest the loss of vehicles, in other words their destruction. A fact all the more likely since the re-ignition of the Raptors on the booster did not work as expected according to the telemetry.

However, the descent was until now controlled, both for the booster and for the Starship, which means that they still crashed in areas presenting little risk… i.e. at sea. For the Starship flight on March 14, 2024, the authorization request to the FAA specifies that flight operations are authorized to areas located in the Gulf of Mexico and Indian Ocean, excluding contingency zones for Starship entry.

At the moment no information on the exact location of the crash of the two parts of the rocket is available. We also do not know whether the wreckage of the two objects can easily be recovered by the firm. The next flight will probably aim to refine this last essential step. From there, SpaceX will be able to use these bases to build and test the Moon version of Starship planned for the Artemis missions.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116