This is not good.
SpaceX's latest orbital Starship prototype (S20), suffered a little mishap on Monday during a venting testing. The pressure caused many hexagonal heat shield tiles in the area to pop off.
Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, confirmed that the vent in his headed tank had blown off some tiles. He was responding to another tweeter who posted a GIF showing the heat shield tiles breaking.
This is not what you want when it's flying. pic.twitter.com/nPGbcCvkw5 Scott Manley (@DJSnM) September 28, 2021
Teslarati claims that the prototype threw away a dozen tiles before any remaining workers cleared the area. This could have been a potential danger to the area, as each tile is about the same size as a dinner plate.
Ceramic tiles are essential for shielding the spacecraft against the blazing temperatures of the Earth's atmosphere during reentry. Starship's belly-flop maneuver is used to slow down its descent. This means that most of Starship's side will be covered with the black tiles.
Reentry temperatures can reach blistering highs. NASA's Space Shuttle was hit with air temperatures well over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This required similar tiles. Instead of being made of ceramics the Shuttle's tiles were made from silica fibers which are a very effective insulation.
Musk stated that each hexagonal tile was attached to the Starships stainless-steel exterior with steel screws. However, it is not clear what caused the tiles to come off during the weeks-long test.
There are still many stress tests to be done on the S20 prototype before it can launch into orbit. Teslarati reports that the spacecraft will need to go through cryogenic proof and static-fire tests. Road closure signs indicate that the first tests could begin as early as this week.
SpaceX is not likely to suffer any major setbacks from the incident. SpaceX will need to find a permanent and secure way to attach the tiles to the Starship before it can go into orbit.
READ MORE: SpaceX's orbital Starship prototype sheds tiles and comes to life during its first tests [Teslarati]
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