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Starship Launch 5 will use improved tiles and flap hinge seal

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SpaceX Starship goes hypersonic during reentry

SpaceX is preparing to launch Starship Test Flight 5 and the company is making some new changes in the heat shield to improve the reentry phase.

Heat shield plays a key role in protecting the spacecraft during atmospheric reentry. The shield is made of hexagonal tiles with heat-resistant ceramic.

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These tiles can resist temperatures above 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,377 degrees Celsius). The shape can pass heat and prevent hot gasses from entering the tile gap. Starship has two heat protection layers. The first layer consists of ceramic tiles and the second layer is beneath the heat shields.

Starship Flight 3 allowed SpaceX to test the heat shield for the first time. However, some tiles began to rip off and fall to the ground. The situation worsened when the ship rolled and lost its orientation and trajectory.

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It exposed the unprotected side to the heat and after a few minutes, the ship lost contact with the mission center. The test failure was caused by high temperature and its impact on the onboard system.

Things changed with the new tiles upgrade in Starship 4, which lasted throughout the descent. The vehicle remained stable but one of the flaps picked up fire and started burning. Fortunately, the flap kept a hold on the ship, performed a flip maneuver, and completed a landing burn before a splashdown.

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During an interview with YouTube channel Everyday Astronaut, Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO revealed many things about the tiles area and the flap.

“The hinge area and the hinge gap. Sealing that hinge gap and not having hot gas just flowing super fast through where the flap hinge is. Cause if you get hot gas flowing through rapidly that will cook anything including the tiles” said Musk before Flight 4.

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He later explained that there’s a hot gas seal at the forward and rear flap hinge. However, Musk and the team weren’t sure whether the seal would work.

SpaceX Starship Reentry to Earth's Atmosphere

SpaceX Starship Reentry to Earth’s Atmosphere (Image Source – SpaceX)

The Flight 4 video recording confirmed that the seal failed to withstand the temperature. Therefore, the hinge fired up soon after the temperature began to climb. So, the focus on Flight 5 will focus on heat resistance but this time it will also patch the flap hinge.

The development and testing for Starship launch 5 is underway and the company is expecting the flight to liftoff within 4 weeks.

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Mel Trivalo is a senior author at EONMSK.com, he began his early career in electronics in 2021 and turned his attention towards Space and Rocket Science. Mel likes to explore new technologies and swings baseball to run through creative thoughts.

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