For the very first time since its establishment, Elon Musk has given SpaceX’s first huge Starship update and during his presentation, the company showed off what a launch with the massive launch system would look like.
Planning Launches to the Moon and Mars
The Starship system is composed of the Starship spacecraft itself on top of a super-heavy booster. Musk’s SpaceX is working towards making it rapidly and completely reusable to make launches to the Moon and to Mars feasible.
After making its way outside our planet, the booster will break off and return to its launch tower, where it will ideally be caught by the tower arms. As for the spacecraft, it will proceed to its destination before making its way back to Earth.
Musk said the booster will spend six minutes in the air overall, two upon ascent and four for its return trip. In the future, the system could be reused every six to eight hours for three launches a day. SpaceX states achieving a fully and rapidly reusable system is key to a future in which humanity is out exploring the stars. With that being told, Musk explained how in-orbit refilling (not refueling) is essential for long-duration flights.
‘Super Heavy Booster’
According to Musk, the Super Heavy booster has more than twice the thrust of a Saturn V, the largest rocket to ever head to space so far. In its current iteration, it has 29 Raptor engines, but it could eventually have 33.
Speaking of those engines, Raptor version 2 is a complete redesign of the first, costs half as much, and needs fewer parts. The company is capable of manufacturing five to six a week at the moment, but it could apparently be capable of producing as many as seven by next month.
Revolutionizing Space Travel
Besides being able to carry hundreds of tons, the Starship could revolutionize space travel if SpaceX can truly make launches as affordable as Musk said it could. He revealed during the event that a Starship launch could cost less than $10 million per flight, all in, within two to three years, which is significantly less than a Falcon 9 launch that costs around $60 million.
SpaceX wants to launch the Starship from its Boca Chica, Texas facility called Starbase, where it has been building the rocket’s prototype. It has yet to secure approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to do so, and Musk said the company doesn’t know where things stand with the agency exactly.
However, there is apparently a rough indication that the FAA will become with its environmental assessment in March. SpaceX also expects the rocket to be ready by then, which means Starship’s first orbital test flight could be on the horizon.
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