Test hexagonal thermal protection slabs in spacecraft pic.twitter.com/PycE9VthxQMarch 17, 2019
SpaceX makes heat rise on its Starship Spaceship Project, according to CEO Elon Musk. Literally.
In a series of posts on Twitter this week, Musk unveiled a fascinating insight into the SpaceX test of hexagonal heat shield tiles that will protect his Starship vehicle when it returns to the atmosphere. SpaceX is developing Starship and its Super Heavy booster for deep space travel to the Moon and Mars.
"Hexagonal Starship Thermal Shield Tile Testing", Musk wrote in a post on Sunday (The 17th of March). He also posted a short video showing nine hexagonal tiles bombarded with flames.
Related: SpaceX Starship and Super Heavy Rocket Mars in images
In subsequent publications, Musk said the heat shield test was a success, with the tiles surviving a full reentry profile. Sometimes, the hottest parts of the tiles withstood temperatures of 1,650 Kelvin, Musk says. It's a whopping 2,510 degrees Fahrenheit (1,377 degrees Celsius)!
The hexagon has excellent shape as it offers "no straight path for the hot gas to accelerate through the interstices". Musk added. If the tests reveal an erosion of the heat shield for Starship, SpaceX plans to add additional cooling systems to protect the spacecraft.
"The cooling by transpiration will be added wherever we will see an erosion of the shield", Musk wrote. "Starship must be ready to fly again immediately after landing." No refurbishment. "
While the hexagonal tiles will protect the Starship vehicle during the comeback, do not expect a polygonal heat shield on the Super Heavy amplifier, Musk said. After all, he says it is made of stainless steel.
"The Super Heavy booster is stainless steel" he wrote. "Since it is only around 8 or 9 Mach, more at high altitude, it does not need heat shield, not even paint."
SpaceX Falcon rocket boosters, which the company is already reusing. The shield is aluminum-lithium and carbon fiber, added Musk. They have "tolerable low temperature max."
SpaceX is developing its Starship vehicle as a new generation spacecraft for deep space travel. As designed, the vehicle will have a height of 118 meters at the top of its Super Heavy amplifier and will carry up to 100 passengers.
The company based in Hawthorne, California has already signed his first passenger for Starship – Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa – who booked a flight around the moon.
SpaceX also built a prototype spacecraft for suborbital jump testing at its newest launch site near Brownsville, Texas. The first "Hopper" tests of the Starship could happen this week.