SpaceX upgrades Starship, Super Heavy booster for impending flight

IANS Photo

IANS Photo

San Francisco, August 19 (IANS): SpaceX has upgraded its huge Starship vehicle, being developed to take people and cargo to the moon, Mars and beyond, with new hardware, for its impending flight, according to the company.

Starship consists of two elements, a spacecraft called Starship and a giant first-stage booster known as Super Heavy.  

“Vented interstage and heat shield installed atop Booster 9. Starship and Super Heavy are being upgraded to use a separation method called hot-staging, where Starship’s second stage engines will ignite to push the ship away from the booster,” the company said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

On April 20, the first flight test of SpaceX's fully integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket lifted off successfully.

Shortly after, it exploded and failed to reach orbit. However, the blast meant the test flight was successful, according to the company.

The rocket launch has also come under the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for reportedly spreading plumes of potentially hazardous debris endangering human lives as well as habitats of animals.

In a bid to prevent a recurrence, SpaceX has been making 'well over 1,000' changes to Starship, reported.

The major change concerns the spacecraft-separation system. It will be quite different on the next Starship mission, which will involve a Super Heavy prototype named Booster 9 and an upper-stage vehicle called Ship 25.

"The superhot plasma from the upper-stage engines has gotta go somewhere," Musk was quoted as saying in a discussion on X.

"So we're adding an extension to the booster that is almost all vents, essentially. So that allows the upper-stage engine plume to go through the sort of vented extension of the booster and not just blow itself up."

Hot staging, which is commonly used on Russian rockets, could end up increasing Starship's payload-to-orbit capacity by 10 per cent, Musk added.

Although, SpaceX aims to launch the test flight soon, no target date has been announced. 

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has twice claimed (first in April, then in June) that the launch pad and the next Starship vehicle should be ready to launch in six to eight weeks. The Starship also needs FAA clearance for liftoff. 

"When a final mishap report is approved, it will identify the corrective actions SpaceX must make," FAA officials said in an emailed statement to this week. "Separately, SpaceX must modify its licence to incorporate those actions before receiving authorisation to launch again."