Starship explodes again: SpaceX is finding out the risks of cryogenic fuel the hard way

Starship explodes again: SpaceX is finding out the risks of cryogenic fuel the hard way

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The development of SpaceX’s giant Starship rocket is experiencing some major setbacks. This is the case of the last ground tests that are supposed to be used to test its accelerator rocket, the Super Heavy.

The Starship is having a hard time taking off. The development of this gigantic ship is running into quite a few problems. Elon Musk himself recognized when the tests began that in the low-altitude flight he only expected a 33% chance of success, and after several delays the ship managed to take flight and then completely explode at the end of 2020.

explosive stumbles. The problems with this project caused the FAA to monitor SpaceX more closely, but the events have not stopped occurring. In March 2021 SpaceX successfully landed at third to explode minutes later. A few weeks later it would finally complete that cycle successfully, but things are not being easy and there was even a risk of bankruptcy due to expenses that are logically very high. Everything seemed to be moving forward, but suddenly…

What happened.The Super Heavy has 33 Raptor engines (there were 29 before) and is in charge of putting the Starship into orbit, but this crucial element of future missions to Mars ended up exploding in a spectacular way, although with apparently less serious consequences than what it might look like.

apparently intact structure. The tests, carried out at the Boca Chica base, seemed to start without problems, but a few moments later the accelerator rocket exploded. Musk tweeted “yes this is not good. Team is assessing damage.”

Despite the spectacular explosion, after a few seconds the engines stop working and after the cloud of smoke the rest of the rocket seems to be intact.

What about cryogenic fuel. Lifting 100 metric tons of metal isn’t easy, which is why Starship needs a formidable push. To achieve this is the Super Heavy and its 33 Raptor engines (the number is increasing), but also a key component: cryogenic fuel.

more push please. These propellants or cryogenic propellants in a liquid state save space in fuel tanks and are used for a fundamental advantage: they offer spectacular thrusts compared to other alternatives, and therefore they are crucial to be able to raise that gigantic mass of the Starship ship and put it into operation. orbit.

That fuel is a challenge. Musk didn’t give too many details about the possible causes of the explosion, but he did say that the use of cryogenic fuel “is an added challenge, as it evaporates and creates an airborne explosion hazard in a partially oxygen atmosphere like the from the earth”.

There are sensors (but as if not). That fuel is a key element of the thrust achieved by the Raptor engines that lift the gigantic ship. Still, he assured him, there are many sensors that try to detect these risks, but something seems to have failed in the system.

Elon, the eternal optimist. The founder of Tesla and SpaceX intends to reach Mars in a few years, but also proposes the launch of a sustainable city there that will house a million people before 2050. This event could affect the roadmap of these missions, although previous setbacks have certainly not prevented those responsible for the project from continuing to advance to achieve their objective.


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