SpaceX Tests Heat Shield Tiles That Will Stop Its Starship From Burning Up
"White-hot parts reached orbital entry temp of around 1,650 Kelvin," said Elon Musk.
Elon Musk is determined to get to Mars and return home, but in order for a spacecraft to re-enter Earth's atmosphere, it needs to be able to withstand the heat. Yesterday, SpaceX tested the heat shield tiles that allow the company's Starship interplanetary spacecraft to do just that.
Testing Starship heatshield hex tiles pic.twitter.com/PycE9VthxQ— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 17, 2019
As Engadget reports, Musk explains in the Twitter thread that the temperatures endured by the heat shield tiles reached 1,650 degrees Kelvin (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit). The hexagonal shape also helps keep the heat from causing any damage, with Musk stating there's "no straight path for hot gas to accelerate through the gaps."
Musk also explained that "transpiration cooling" will be added to areas where erosion of the shield is found because "Starship needs to be ready to fly again immediately after landing." This type of cooling allows for additional cooling to occur with the release of water and methane to act as cooling agents.
The test was a complete success and gets Musk one step closer to making the journey to Mars, something he sees happening in 2024 if everything goes to plan. There's also the small task of safely transporting Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the Moon and back to Earth as part of a five-day journey in 2023.