Elon Shows SpaceX Starship SN8 With Body Flaps

Elon Musk has tweeted out the SpaceX Starship prototype SN8 with body flaps. The body flaps are moved using electric motors instead of hydraulics.

SpaceX will add the nosecone and front flaps next week and Starship SN9 will be ready in October.

The first flight for SN8 will be is to 15,000 meters or ~50,000 ft.

SOURCES- Elon Musk, SpaceX
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

20 thoughts on “Elon Shows SpaceX Starship SN8 With Body Flaps”

  1. I guess there are no companies in the world which don't want to cooperate with SpaceX. Based on its sample we have growing space industry and maybe I would be able to jump on the rocket and reach Mars in a few seconds in the future.

  2. I know a lot of people that don't conduct any exercise on a regular basis. They tend to also have body flaps.

  3. No, it would still be fully reusable – the shrouds just come down separately and are recovered as with Falcon 9.

    Note that for satellite launch, Starship will effectively have shrouds anyhow, it'll carry them to orbit, split them open to release the satellite, close them up, and lug them back down the gravity well.

  4. This goes against everything the Starship program stands for. The entire ship is supposed to be completely reusable with minimal turnaround time. The goal is not to get the absolute maximum payload to orbit, but to get the most payload to orbit while achieving full reusability.

  5. To reduce Starship mass for more payload or more easily land Super Heavy at the launch site, they should make the top half of Starship (call it the 'nose') into shrouds that split off and return to Earth independently once out of most of the atmosphere.

    There simply are not many (any?) cases where there's a need to drag the nose to orbit, only to bring it back down to Earth. I worry that SpaceX is making the Shuttle mistake all over again. The few cases where something must return to Earth can be done other better, safer ways.

    (To clarify – I'm not talking about components returning for reuse, rather bringing payloads back. Crew could come back separate from Starship.)

  6. Sounds reasonable, though there could be issues:

    Starship may not be good at hovering. Maybe they don't have enough throttling precision to deal with its weight continuously dropping as it hovers. Perhaps the engines can't throttle low enough to let it land if it doesn't have downward momentum – i.e. they risk having the rocket start going back up.

    If either of those are the case, they need to do a redesign. When landing on any uncertain surface (e.g. Mars), the ability to hover and translate a bit could be essential. Maybe augment the main engines with some small 'landing trim' rockets that can be throttled with sufficient precision.

  7. Yes, history is always a good substitute for engineering.
    Question was not "how could they possibly have", but "how have they".
    Clearly a combination of material properties and reentry angle and speed. Does anyone have any more detailed information about that?

  8. As per all their previous presentation materials, they are targeting return near to launchpad with Superheavy, and the same with Starship once it goes to orbit, even if that incurs in some payload penalization.

    But AFAIK, the plans have always considered that mode of operation for their stated payload to LEO numbers.

    But I guess they could change their planned procedure to maximize payload if need be, making it land in a barge. But that maneuver would certainly complicate operations and make the launch more expensive.

    Nevertheless the first test launches won't care about payload, just about the test vehicles and showing they work while minimizing the risk of losing them. So any option of return is open.

  9. The "flap" looks more like the vertical tail on an airplane. The "tail" could do double duty as an outrigger for a more stable landing. A true "flap" could be mounted on the bottom of the tail with a horizontal hinge. I think it would be better to mount "flaps" closer to the top of the rocket so the "tail" would be stronger and more rigid.

  10. All four flaps will move independently to control roll, pitch, and yaw. The starship will fall much like a skydiver who controls their rate of fall, horizontal motion and attitude with their flaps(outstretched arms, and legs bent at the knees).

  11. For orbital flights returning to launch area drastically lowers payload into orbit. I'd be there will be a much larger barge, that might bring the superheavy to just offshore for a short hop home.
    Port Isabel might need some improvement for a large barge, and tugs, but making their own little port facility would be a nightmare. Even if they did bring superheavy into Port Isabel, bringing it home by highway would be a mess.
    Maybe the barge could be designed to be dragged onto the beach for unloading, with ramps to the sand, sort of like a marine landing craft. After unloading, a tug from port Isabel could drag it back into the water if necessary. Maybe they could have sort of a loading dock on the beach, that the ramp would sit on for unloading, with pavement to highway 4.

  12. And given they have zero orbital launch and return experience, their plans are doomed due to this little detail.

    Oh noes.

  13. Until I was confident in the hardware, I'd do a simulated landings ten meters above the ocean, or barren sand, coming to a hover, and then move horizontal to the existing landing pad. Presumably, there is plenty of room for fuel, and oxidizer.
    Think of it as a vertical landing touch-and-go as test pilots do with new planes.

  14. Every single rivet and seam looks like a potential burn through hot spot. How have they beaten that?

    Plus, what a beast to back down from outer space. Sheesh!

  15. I assume the first tens of miles-high jumps will return near but not at the launching pad.

    But suborbital and orbital ones, who knows?

    But I agree they would like to avoid losing Raptor hardware as much as they can, but the first launches always have a few R.S.D.s and R.U.D.s.

  16. Eloneron(s), Mobile/Adjustable Aerobrake Control Surface(s) MACS/AACS, aerobrake, paddles, flings, flaps. NOT canards!

  17. In terms of tiles, it is tough to get panels to adhere to a flexing cylinder. A tesselation that is flexible might ‘zipper’ off in flow.

    Has anyone looked at surface patterns atop each tile? The tiles fit together in one pattern, but with surface corrugations from nose to tail.

    This way, the tiles ‘feel’ two different forces. Maybe the tiles can have spring-tabs to each other.

  18. Seems like they've got a hard decision. Do they land this right there near where it took off – near their tank farm with potential damage if 'things go wrong'? Do they try to land on one of their landing barges? I can't imagine SpaceX or Musk being so cautious as to do a simulated landing over open water, throwing away a bunch of Raptor engines.

    My guess is they'll accept the risk of landing back near where it took off, as the 'win' of success at that is big enough to balance the risk of collateral damage if things go wrong.

    Their 'suicide swing' landing would seem to increase the risk of last second failure. So "maybe some tanks and pipes" versus "probably a whole drone ship".

    Plus, they'd have to redesign the robot that secures the lander on the barge, just for testing purposes – assuming they plan to normally land Starship on land, not on a barge.

  19. During re-entry, Starship will fall "sideways" for greater drag to slow down enough. So the flaps can add to that drag.

    But also, you don't want Starship to start rolling as it falls. The flaps can help control that both statically (by holding them both at an angle that tends to keep one side down) and dynamically (by adjusting them as needed).

    And the bottom of the Starship is heavier than the top, due to the engines – so the bottom needs bigger flaps to keep the ship from going "tail down", which would reduce it's drag and ability to slow.

  20. GG or somebody who *isn't* a liberal arts major like lil' ol' me, help me out.
    I get electric motors are probably much lighter than hydraulics, but… why flaps? I don't understand the utility.

Comments are closed.