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SpaceX SN11 Experimental Test Vehicle


SpaceX Moderator
Jan 31, 2012
Santa Fe, New Mexico
They are testing the belly-flop maneuver, flips and landings (ans ways to affix thermal tiles). Only going up to 10 km.
They won't be able to test re-entry until they get to orbit with the full stack (Super Heavy + Starship). Expect a lot of fire then!
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I guess that is the patch of protective material they are testing for the Air Force?
Any details about exactly what it's made from?
Also- seeing as Starships don't glow red hot (so far!) on reentry from their test flight, how useful is a test at such lowish (!) speeds?
The material is a PICA formula created by SpaceX for the Dragon capsule that will now be used on Starship for its reentry from orbit. SpaceX is testing the best way to attach the material to the Starship to maximize safety and reuse. The Air Force/Space Force is very interested in SpaceX sharing what they learn from these tests. They hope to apply the knowledge and use the PICA in some of their other projects.
“it goes to 11”. Eleven has been one of Elon”s favorite numbers. Hope it truly does this time!

So I read in Liftoff THE reason why 11 is an important number for SpaceX in particular. For the second launch of Falcon 1, they hadn't yet had their second stage light, so they really didn't know how it was going to work, and they had a long laundry list of possible ways it could fail. Number 11 was LOX tank slosh. They had computer simulations and on some small number of simulation runs, the liquid in the tanks would slosh around so much that it would destabilize the second stage enough to cause it to tumble out of control. But they had characterized the risk as number 11 on their list of things that could go wrong, so they made the decision to not address it (among other things, they were battling weight penalties AND they were worried about structural integrity, so welding baffles inside the tank also seemed risky).

Well, Falcon 1 makes her second flight and sure enough, slosh in the second stage caused it to spiral out of control soon after stage separation.

So now, SpaceX works through all possible issues up to number 11 on the list!
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I’m positive I’ve seen these attachment thingies somewhere. And that would not surprise me: SpaceX uses off-the-shelf stuff all the time. “Space-rated” seems like an easy way to make a lot of money selling over-engineered bolts.
Right. And it's hard to find space-rated water towers, so they had to build their own form hardware store parts.