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Prototype version of SpaceX Starship with stainless steel skin is under construction



Elon Musk has been a busy man in recent years. In September 2016, he revealed the company's plan for a super heavy launch car – Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). The following year, Musk presented the world with an updated design of the vehicle, which was renamed Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) and Big Falcon Spacecraft (BFS). In November, the launch system was renamed Starship .

Musk also recently indicated that his firm would build a smaller version of Starship to test the design. Since the mission architecture has evolved, Musk has kept the audience aware of the progress of the ship's construction. As usual, the latest update was delivered via Twitter, where Musk-shared images of the pieces in mini-Starship (aka. Starship Alpha) were rolled out as preparation for construction.

The photos were taken on the company's South Texas Launch Site and showed several completed parts of the prototype. These included the nose cone and pieces of miniature Starship's (aka. Starship Alpha) hole. Musk also took the opportunity to answer technical questions about Starship Alpha, which included the benefits of its stainless steel construction.

This choice of material represents something of a shift for SpaceX , then Starship's design originally required the use of carbon composites (CCs) in the hull. According to Musk, the stainless steel alloy used by his company (300 Series Stainless), it offers some unique advantages over CCs. This is due to the fact that the steel was coldformed at cryo which means that it was formed at cryogenic temperatures.

This process allows an end product that is lighter and tougher than traditional hot-rolled steel. By explaining the question that stainless steel is heavier than CCS, Musk explained that while this alloy is heavier than carbon composites at room temperature, it is lighter and stronger at cryogenic temperatures – from 150 ° C (-238 ° F). ) to absolute zero (-273 ° C; -460 ° F).

The same goes for high temperatures, since the natural reflectivity of stainless steel makes it highly resistant to heat – therefore less in the way of heat shielding. Better performance under extreme temperatures is important when it comes to space travel, where spacecraft experience both extreme cold and extreme heat during reentry.

A hull component of the Starship prototype is rolled out. Credit: NASASpaceflight

Musk also questioned "radically redesigned" Raptor engines that will be used for alpha test planes next year. On the question of whether the company was still on track for its scheduled test launches at the SpaceX Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas, Musk tweeted that the redesigned engine would be "ready for fire next month."

He also included some specifications on the newly developed engine, which contained that there would be a "full-flow, gas-gas, staged combustion" engine that could reach "up to 300 bar." The engine will also be powered by turbo pumps capable of generating 100,000 horsepower each. Based on these specifications, the Starship prototype is likely to weigh the same as a Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket (549,054 kg; 1 205,920 lb ) and will be able to generate comparable features .

The jump test of Starship Alpha will take place on the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site and is scheduled for June 2019, although the company may be ready as soon as March. Musk also confirmed that this test will involve Starship Alpha, which delivers some of SpaceX's Starlink broadband internet satellites to orbit. "Starlink V1 on Falcon, V2 + on Starship," he tweeted . "Basically, all future products will contain either the word" star "or" link. "

Further Reading: Teslarati