April 24, 2024

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SpaceX is testing a spacecraft deluge system

SpaceX is testing a spacecraft deluge system

On April 20, SpaceX arbitrarily Starship megarocket launched Without the benefit of a flame diverter or water deluge system, which leads to Significant damage to the launch pad And Dust and debris rush into the surroundings. In an effort to prevent this from happening again, the company is building a robust deluge system that underwent its first test yesterday.

The limited test took place at 2:22 p.m. ET on July 17 at the SpaceX Starbucks facility in Boca Chica, Texas. Video from NASASpaceflight Shows thousands of gallons of water Firing from the Orbital Launch Base (OLM) with massive force. The sound of surging water was surprisingly intense. More robust tests are likely, as SpaceX works toward the next steady-fire test of the Starship, the date of which has yet to be announced. The video below provides multiple screenshots of the test.

Testing of the spacecraft immersion system for the first time (partial test) | SpaceX Boca Chica

Ultimately, the system can spray up to 350,000 gallons of water as the spacecraft ignites and lifts off, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) as of June 2022. Unlike NASA’s Deluge system, which pumps 450,000 gallons of water to suppress excessive noise Produced during a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket launch, SpaceX’s deluge system uses water to absorb energy from the rocket as it lifts off, and “most of the water is expected to be vaporized by the heat of the rocket engines,” the FAA said.

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The idea of ​​SpaceX using a deluge system in April is starkly obvious — and not just because we have the benefit of hindsight. During its inaugural firing, the Starship’s 33 Raptor’s engines, which produce nearly 17 million pounds of thrust, scorched the area just below the OLM, leaving behind a 25-foot-deep crater and scattering debris and dust over a wide area. In nearby Port Isabel, “dust fell on everything,” says the New York Times mentioned on time. the The FAA is now facing a lawsuit As a result the launch was permitted, while Starship remains suspended pending investigation.

The company led by Elon Musk — the The most valuable private company in the United States—most likely chose to fly the Starship without the benefit of the launch suppression infrastructure, either because it underestimated the potential risk or because it is under enormous pressure to get the missile up and running; The company is operating under two lucrative NASA contracts to utilize the Starship as a lunar lander for Artemis 3 and 4 missions. But I’m speculating. Only Elon knows why. What is clear, however, is that the company has at least had the idea in mind, as has the FAA’s PEA It is clear:

SpaceX is still determining whether the converter will be used under the launch pad. The diverter is a metal structure placed on the launch pad below the rocket to turn the rocket shaft sideways away from the ground. SpaceX is also still considering whether to use floodwaters during launch or testing.

The problematic April flight, in which the 394-foot spacecraft exploded just four minutes after liftoff, is already prompting SpaceX to invest in proper funnel infrastructure (including the metal converter). This is a logical step not only for environmental or safety reasons, but also from a financial point of view. Starship, with its ability to regularly embark on missions to low Earth orbit, the Moon or even Mars, cannot simply destroy the launch pad after each flight.

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