SpaceX loses communication with the starship after nearly finishing the third test mission

SpaceX loses communication with the starship after nearly finishing the third test mission.

SpaceX’s third mega-rocket, the Starship, ensured its spectacular end would live on in history.


For the third time ever, Starship took off from SpaceX‘s South Texas Starbase site and rocketed into orbit yesterday, March 14. The massive vehicle achieved several milestones, including opening its payload door in orbit and performing a propellant-transfer demonstration far from Earth.


The starship‘s upper stage failed to make its planned water landing in the Indian Ocean, going dark halfway through its violent plunge through Earth’s atmosphere. However, the ship’s cameras remained on throughout the return, revealing how terrifying the experience was.


SpaceX's Flight 3 Starship upper stage glows orange as it heats up during reentry during a test flight on March 14, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX)
SpaceX’s Flight 3 Starship upper stage glows orange as it heats up during reentry during a test flight on March 14, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX)


The upper stage achieved orbital velocity and a maximum altitude of 145 miles (234 kilometers) today, according to telemetry data supplied by SpaceX during its launch webcast.


The 165-foot-tall (50-meter-tall) spaceship captured breathtaking sights from this vantage point. For example, we observed fluffy white clouds floating above clear waters and enjoyed calm views of Earth’s curving limb against the blackness of space.


However, the tone changed approximately 46 minutes after launch, when Starship fell to a height of roughly 62 miles (100 kilometers), low enough for the atmosphere to begin to make its presence known.


The onboard cameras of the ship captured orange clouds blooming on the belly and fins of Starship. A few seconds later, these clouds ignited into a wall of superheated plasma, which intensified as the Starship descended, reaching temperatures of up to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit (1,430 degrees Celsius).


It isn’t easy to transmit data home over such plasma fields. However, according to business spokespeople, Starship succeeded in doing so by utilizing SpaceX‘s Starlink internet satellites to connect with its controllers here on Earth.


“Reliable high-speed, low-latency internet around the world—even while traveling at 27,000 km/h through a plasma field,” Starlink’s official X account stated shortly after today’s voyage in a post that included a video of Starship’s return.


For approximately 48.5 minutes after launch, Starship continued to send out images until it had lowered to a height of 48 miles (77 km). Shortly after, all data stopped, indicating that Starship had died, splitting apart due to tremendous friction.


The test flight marked a significant advancement for Starship, SpaceX’s 400-foot-tall (122-meter) spaceship designed to assist humanity in settling the moon and Mars. Starship’s first two test flights, in April and November 2023, lasted only four and eight minutes, respectively.


SpaceX has already constructed four more of the massive stainless-steel rockets, and the corporation plans to attempt even more Starship advancements shortly.


At the launch webcast, SpaceX’s Siva Bharadvaj, a space operations engineer, stated, “These vehicles are slated for future flight tests just like today.”


“And, in fact, just this week, we static-fired our next ship that’s planning to fly and expect to test the booster as soon as the launch mount is free from today’s flight test,” he said.


Problems with previous test flights:


The first of the two test flights, which occurred last April following multiple Super Heavy engine shutdowns and a stage separation malfunction, ended in spectacular self-destruct conflagrations; the second happened in November, shortly before the Starship was scheduled to begin a planned loop around the planet before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii.


After the failures, SpaceX engineers made several system modifications, such as strengthening the rocket’s self-destruct mechanism, enhancing engine performance, and fortifying the pad with a powerful water deluge system that also muffles the sound of an engine starting.


The corporation also used the “hot staging” technique, which involved the Starship’s six Raptor engines igniting while the stage was still linked to the Super Heavy rocket. Russian Soyuz rockets have used hot staging for decades to ensure a more efficient stage separation sequence.


“Starship’s second flight test achieved several major milestones and provided invaluable data to continue rapidly developing Starship,” SpaceX stated on its website. “This rapid iterative development approach has been the basis for all of SpaceX’s major innovative advancements.”


The Starship was to be launched into space for a sub-orbital test flight and high-speed re-entry, and both stages—the Super Heavy in the Gulf of Mexico and the Starship in the Indian Ocean—were to make safe landings. These were the main objectives of the third test mission.


The ability to recover and reuse smaller Falcon 9 rockets is made possible by technologies that SpaceX invented. However, no starship has ever attempted to return through the atmosphere from space while subjecting insulating tiles on its belly to temperatures beyond 2,500 degrees.


The third test flight had no recovery plans, even though both stages are intended to be reusable. According to the flight plan, both stages were supposed to attempt rocket-powered descents that mirrored real landing techniques before breaking apart and sinking upon impact with the ocean. As it turned out, neither stage got very far. But it was close.


Anyway, as the Starship coasted toward entry, flight controllers tested a payload door that will be utilized for Starlink satellite launches in the future.


The rocket’s ability to effectively transfer cryogenic propellants from one tank to another in space’s weightless environment and to restart a Raptor engine outside of the atmosphere is of greater significance to NASA.


NASA is paying SpaceX billions of dollars to create a Starship derivative that will serve as the Human Landing System, or HLS, for the agency’s Artemis moon program. The propellant transfer test and Raptor restart are crucial milestones.


Before turning on its engines and heading toward the moon to await the arrival of astronauts utilizing the spacecraft to transport them to and from the surface, the HLS will need to be automatically refueled in Earth orbit by several Super Heavy-Starship tankers.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *