What Is Elon Musk's Starship? What does it aim for? When Will Starship Fly?
What exactly is Elon Musk's huge spacecraft Starship, which has not been on the agenda for a long time? What is the purpose of Starship? What will Starship do, when will it fly? What you need to know about Starship is inside...
Signed by Elon Musk's company SpaceX; The prototype of the vehicle called 'Starship', which is the largest space rocket ever built, was completed on Friday. The spacecraft, which is seated on a huge booster rocket called the Super Heavy Rocket Booster, reaches a height of 121 meters. So, what exactly is Elon Musk's spacecraft Starship, which has not fallen off the agenda for a long time? What is the purpose of Starship? When will Starship fly? Here's what you need to know about Starship in the light of the information compiled by the BBC...
The founding philosophy of Elon Musk's private spaceflight company, SpaceX, is to spread life to other planets. Underneath this philosophy lies a possible catastrophe: existential threats such as an asteroid impact large enough to wipe out humanity. Starship, too, aims to be a fully reusable transportation system capable of carrying up to 100 people to Mars.
Elon Musk outlined this philosophy at an international conference in Mexico in 2016: "History will split in two directions. One way is we will stay on Earth forever, and then there will be some kind of extinction event. The alternative way is a space civilization and to become a multi-planetary species. I think this is the right path.”
Musk often talks about his dream of building cities on Mars. He believes settlements will need large numbers of people to be self-sustaining. Achieving this dream requires a tool suited to the task. This is where Starship comes into play. We're talking about a rocket and spacecraft combination that can simultaneously transport more than 100 people to the Red Planet...
The system is designed to be completely reusable; i.e. core hardware items aren't trashed or allowed to burn as some other launch systems do. Instead, it is first brought back to Earth safely, and then regenerated and flown again, reducing the cost of the entire process.
What Kind of Vehicle Will Starship Be?
The Starship spacecraft will sit on a rocket called Super Heavy. The combined system will be 120m (394ft) tall. For long-distance trips to Mars and up to nine months in each direction, Musk plans to install about 40 cabins inside the vehicle.
The cargo bay will also house common areas, storage space, a kitchen, and a shelter where people can gather to shelter from solar storms.
Starship will also play a role in NASA's Artemis program, which aims to establish a long-term human presence on the Moon. In April 2021, the US space agency NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.89 billion contract to convert Starship into a lander capable of sending astronauts to the lunar surface this decade.
When Will Starship Fly?
Over the past few years, SpaceX has tested several prototypes of the upper stage at its Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The company launched in 2019 with a 39-foot "test vehicle" called the Starhopper - it looked a lot like a water tower.
The prototype with winglets - Starship serial number (SN8) - flew to an altitude of 12.5 km in December 2020. It returned to Earth and gave SpaceX valuable engineering data about the final part of the vehicle's return from space.
However, the SN8 approached the landing strip a little too fast and hard, causing it to explode. The Starship SN15 exploded in three more tests before succeeding with a soft landing in May 2021.
SpaceX plans to fly Starship with Super Heavy for the first orbital test flight in 2021. Elon Musk has promised a Moon trip to Japanese online retail billionaire Yusaku Maezawa in 2023. Maezawa will fly around the moon in a Starship with eight others.
And Starship will carry astronauts from lunar orbit to the lunar surface as part of NASA's Artemis-III mission, also targeted for 2024. Musk also says he will launch one of the vehicles in an uncrewed flight to Mars in 2024.
Although Elon Musk's timelines may seem overly optimistic at times, he will eventually reach his goal. At least, this has been the case in all the projects he has developed to date; There doesn't seem to be a reason why it shouldn't be in Starship either.