SpaceX to test “Hot Stage Separation” on Starship

SpaceX will change the technology of stage separation to Starship. The head of the company, Elon Musk, said this in an online interview with Bloomberg. 

The first test flight of Starship. Source: John Kraus

At the moment, SpaceX uses the following stage separation system on its rockets. First, the engines of the first stage are switched off, after a few seconds it separates, a few seconds after that the second stage is ignited. Such a scheme is considered the most reliable, because it eliminates the risk of a collision or that the engines of the second stage will damage the first. Simultaneously, it also has a disadvantage in the form of loss of thrust, which reduces the carrier’s load capacity.

In the case of Starship, Elon Musk decided to abandon this scheme in favor of the so-called “hot stage separation”. This means that the engines of the spacecraft will be ignited even before the separation of the Super Heavy at the time of operation of its engines. According to Elon Musk, this will increase the carrying capacity of the Starship by at least 10%.

Hot separation will require a number of changes to the design of the upper part of the Super Heavy to protect it from the effects of Raptor engines. In particular, it will need to be equipped with a special section with holes for gas discharge.

Date of the next Starship flight

Elon Musk also spoke about the preparation of the next Starship test. Currently, SpaceX specialists are engaged in the modernization of the launch pad. It will receive a water cooling system in the form of a pair of thick steel plates welded together with channels for cooling the structure and spraying water upwards (Musk figuratively compared its design with a shower head). This design will eliminate the repetition of the situation with damage to the launch pad during the launch of Starship.

The first test flight of Starship. Source: John Kraus

SpaceX is also working to increase the thrust-to-weight ratio of the Starship so that it leaves the launch pad faster. In total, according to the results of the first test, over a thousand different changes were made to the system design. 

According to Musk, the preparation of the launch pad and the next prototypes will be completed in six weeks. The billionaire did not name any specific date for the new Starship flight, but shared his forecast. In his opinion, the probability that the spacecraft will reach orbit is about 60%, and the most dangerous step will be the separation of the stages.

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