Elon Musk Explains SpaceX Genius New Stage Separation System!
The Starship is shaping up to be the most powerful spacecraft ever built. Recently, its full height was demonstrated when the two stages were stacked for the first time. However, during the flight of the Starship, the stages will have to come apart. The method for separating the two stages after liftoff is so simple that it is mind-blowing, eliminating the complicated designs other rocket makers use. SpaceX actually skipped using a separation mechanism, as incredible as that may sound!
Join us as we explore the Starship’s insane stage separation system!
How it works ?
The Starship is made of two giant stages:
The lower stage or the rocket, which is also known as the Super Heavy, is the part that helps the Starship escape the earth’s gravitational pull. Standing at 70 meters, it dwarfs everything beside it. The rocket uses more than thirty sea-level Raptor engines to generate the liftoff force that is required. SpaceX has designed the rocket to be reusable so after completing its job, it will return to the earth and land with the help of its four grid fins to prepare for the next mission launch.
The space faring part is the Ship or the upper stage. This is another imposing structure, although it is about 20 meters shorter than the lower stage. However, it is heavier than the lower stage at the moment of separation, a fact that will come to play.
The upper stage uses 6 Raptor engines, a mixture of the sea level and vacuum types, for propulsion and landing. It will journey to far distant places in the universe and return to earth to land, since it is completely reusable, just like the lower stage.
Musk on his own part wants to use it to take people to Mars for a permanent human presence on the planet. That will involve multiple trips to move tonnes of cargo for life support systems ahead of the explorers. He also has the more distant planet, Jupiter, in mind as another possible destination.
NASA also wants to use the Spaceship to lower its astronauts to the surface of the moon in its Project Artemis. The agency also plans to go to Mars in the Spaceship at a point, although it will be sending astronauts and not regular people.
However, all these interplanetary trips will only happen after the Ship has separated from the Super Heavy booster.
Every rocket that delivers a payload to space ends up discarding the lower stage. This is in keeping with the laws of physics because the dead weight of the empty fuel tank of the rocket will only hold the spacecraft back if it is not discarded.
The Starship is not different. However, looking at the spacecraft standing so tall on its mound and looking solidly and seamlessly attached, you might wonder exactly how the two stages will come apart when the time comes.
Other rocket makers take a more complicated and risky route in designing their own separation mechanism, more on than later.
But not SpaceX, which is unbelievably skipping designing a separation mechanism.
According to Musk, who is never afraid to share engineering details about his spaceships, SpaceX is not adding anything new either to the upper or lower part to achieve the separation.
He revealed this startling detail during a three-part interview with Youtuber EverydayAstronaut.
The Spaceship will kick start the separation process by using the gimballing raptor engines on the Super Heavy to rotate itself.
This is how the Spaceship will introduce angular momentum moments before the main engine cutoff or MECO. During this period, the latches between the Ship and Super Heavy will be opened, so that the two stages will drift apart.
Due to the spinning motion it is undergoing, the Ship will basically float away in a straight and stable line because it is about five times heavier than the booster at this point.
This is where the six Raptor engines on the Ship are fired up after cold gas thrusters have been used to settle the propellant.
Once the separation is completed, the liberated Ship will embark on its voyage.
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