4
$\begingroup$

IFT-4 demonstrated a controlled entry into orbit. IFT-3 had already demonstrated the ability to open the payload bay door (or so SpaceX claims). Is there any reason why Starship cannot begin launching satellites now?

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know that IFT3 did demonstrate the payload door. It seemed to have problems opening and didn't fully open as far as we could see. A garage door that opens six inches and jams is not a functional garage door. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 11 at 16:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Flight was suborbital, was it not? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 11 at 18:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Technically it was a a suborbital trajectory, but the deltaV used was, iirc, the same as the amount needed to enter a stable orbit, just at an angle designed to ensure that if anything went wrong they would not leave space junk up there. That said, showing they can enter orbit and then deorbit safely under their own power is certainly a prerequisite to being "ready". $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 12 at 18:43

3 Answers 3

4
$\begingroup$

Starship cannot be considered operational at the moment. SpaceX must first demonstrate that Starship can relight at least one Raptor engine in orbit to prove that it is capable of exiting orbit in a controlled manner.

If this is not demonstrated, I doubt that the FAA would grant a launch license as failure to fire the engine (retro grade) whilst in very low orbit would effectively leave Starship to decay unpredictably and 160 tonnes of debris could end up any where. Memphis? Astrakhan?

The Flight termination system might trigger but there is no guarantee that a considerable fraction of the 160 tonne craft would not rain down in built up areas.

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ I wonder if the engine relight test is instead a requirement that SpaceX is imposing on itself? I'm not sure the FAA is in the business of "do a test proving to us that you are capable of doing the thing you say you want to do then we will approve it". Probably they just make sure FTS is in place, exclusion zones are in place, etc. and if a mishap occurs they want to see a report about. I'm sure there is quite a bit more to it than just that, but FAA insisting on an in-space engine relight test seems a bit out of character. I wonder if there is a precedent for that with prior rocket launches? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 13 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Steve Pemberton maybe, perhaps they just wanted assurance that SpaceX could safely bring Starship out of orbit at a predefined place (so that they could actually place an exclusion zone somewhere. The FTS might not destroy Starship entirely so it's important that it comes down over the ocean. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Commented Jun 14 at 7:29
0
$\begingroup$

It may be possible to deliver satellites to Low Earth Orbit, hypothetically, as a bit of an extra push would mean it reaches orbit (IFT-4 wasn't orbital, intentionally).

However, taking any real payload would be a very risky endeavour as Starship still hasn't proven this capability. So Starship may still have some issues to work out e.g. orbital manoeuvring capability and accuracy. Some cheap payloads like cheap cubesats that just want to be above the Karman line may be acceptable, but for the money they pay, the added mission complexity doesn't look worth it to SpaceX.

The more likely scenario is that IFT-5 (and maybe 6?) would demonstrate orbital manoeuvring, proving accuracy of orbit and other related checklist items. And then, a la Falcon 9, Starship can start delivering payloads while carrying on with re-usability testing.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

No, sadly as it has not proven to be able to deorbit itself

Once it has proved that is can deorbit itself, it will be ready to enter service and deliver payload.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.