The spacecraft’s next flight could attempt a unique maneuver in space

The spacecraft’s next flight could attempt a unique maneuver in space

The spacecraft’s third test flight may be an opportunity to test a new maneuver: transporting propellant into space. This test is necessary as part of the Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the moon.

It’s still unknown when the next comprehensive test of the spacecraft will take place, but clues are starting to emerge about the rest of the program. Thus, the third test will be an opportunity for SpaceX to experiment with “propellant transport” in space. This is a scenario that was studied by the company and NASA CNBC In its December 5 edition.

NASA and SpaceX are exploring options for conducting the demonstration during an integrated flight test of the Starship and Super Heavy vehicles [les deux parties qui composent la fusée, NDLR]. However, no final decision has been made on the timeline », the agency spokesman responded. According to SpaceX, the rocket for the third test should be ready by Christmas.

Even if the launch pad is operational within the next few weeks, this does not mean that it will be able to fly again immediately. SpaceX must first get the green light from US authorities. Furthermore, analysis of data from the second flight, such as the investigation conducted by SpaceX, must be completed to clarify the reasons for the early end of the test.

All of these steps create uncertainty about the opportunity for future photography. For example, seven months passed between the first two attempts. In addition, the Fuel Transfer can also be postponed to another date. In this regard, it is not uncommon to see changes in plans at the last minute.

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Spaceships to ensure supplies

The ability to transport propellant (which is used to propel the rocket and which is stored in tanks) is a key element of the Artemis program. SpaceX should provide resupply missions to support NASA’s lunar ambitions. From Artemis III, astronauts will set foot on Earth’s natural satellite.

Upon liftoff, the rocket expends a large amount of the propellant it is carrying to lift its mass (the mass of the rocket and the mass of the propellant) out of Earth’s gravity. In order for SpaceX to be able to fulfill its missions elsewhere, more tanks must be loaded. This mechanically affects the consumption of the missile, since there is more weight.

It is also necessary to provide enough propellant for space operations: making the trip to the Moon, making a controlled landing on the Moon’s surface, and taking off back into lunar orbit and back to Earth. Even if this involves several different vehicles, they must be available so that they can fulfill their role. Which therefore requires the delivery and transportation of said “fuel”.

An artistic impression of the resupply process. // source : SpaceX

Hence the idea of ​​having versions of the spacecraft running this show. This is one variation of the launch device that SpaceX is considering. These special versions of the Starship can resupply other Starship vehicles. Wow theory. It now remains to make this a reality. The first comprehensive test should allow us to move forward on this issue.

CNBC reports that the current contract between NASA and SpaceX involves trying to transfer 10 tons of liquid oxygen between the tanks of a Starship rocket. This will be done on the same operator. There are no plans today to organize a space encounter with a “tank missile.” However, this would be a scenario that would have to be played out well one day.

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Perhaps the relatively modest nature of the upcoming test reflects SpaceX’s difficulty in maneuvering. According to a report by the US Court of Auditors, which is based on NASA documents, “ SpaceX has made limited progress in developing the technologies needed to support this aspect of its plan. »

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Source: James Blair

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