SpaceX is developing a reusable Starship capable of carrying one hundred passengers on long-duration space voyages. NASA awarded SpaceX a contract to manufacture a lunar-optimized Starship Human Landing System (HLS) to return astronauts to the Moon as part of the Artemis program by 2025. On February 8, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said "it's quite possible" that the company could perform at least 100 Starship cargo flights before launching people to space.
The goal is to make flying Starship as routine as it is to launch previously-flown Falcon 9 rockets. To date, SpaceX has performed 208 successful Falcon 9 missions, recovered 170 first-stage boosters, and reused these boosters 143 times – a first in the history of rocketry! SpaceX develops the most advanced rockets in the world capable of partial reusability. Now, it is working to develop a fully-reusable Starship to make spaceflight as frequent as it is to take off on an airplane. “[...] We have Starship be as much like aircraft operations as we can possibly get it. We want to talk about dozens of launches per day, if not hundreds of launches a day,” said Ms. Shotwell at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Commercial Space Transportation Conference.
Ms. Shotwell noted that flying Starship 100 times before launching astronauts aboard was not a requirement but that achieving 100-flights would be a great milestone ahead of launching people. “I would love to do hundreds before. I think that would be a great goal and it’s quite possible that we could do that,” she said, adding that SpaceX has 100 Falcon 9 missions on its 2023 launch manifest. “If we can do 100 flights of Falcon this year, I’d love to be able to do 100 flights of Starship next year. I don’t think we will do 100 flights of Starship next year, but maybe 2025 we will do 100 flights,” she said.
These 100 Starship flights would be cargo missions, mostly expected to be dedicated to completing the deployment of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband satellite constellation. The company has regulatory approval to launch 7,500 Starlink Gen2 System satellites that will be equipped with additional technology to increase the internet network’s capabilities. These Gen2 satellites will be much larger and heavier and will require Starship to deploy to orbit. Starship will be capable of carrying 100 tons to Low Earth Orbit. SpaceX is working to launch the first Starship to orbit this year, the flight could happen as soon as March if pre-flight preparations go smoothly. “We will go for a test flight and we will learn from the test flight and we will do more test flights,” Shotwell said. “The real goal is to not blow up the launch pad. That is success.” This week, engineers performed the first-ever 31 Raptor engine static-fire test at the Starbase launch pad in South Texas which is an important milestone ahead of the orbital flight attempt. Read more in the previous TESMANIAN story, linked below.
SpaceX completes major milestone as it test-fires Starship rocket's powerful Raptors ahead of debut orbital flight [VIDEO]https://t.co/hRkhFYs5SK— Tesmanian.com (@Tesmanian_com) February 10, 2023
Super Heavy Booster 7 completed a full duration static fire test of 31 Raptor engines, producing 7.9 million lbf of thrust (~3,600 metric tons) – less than half of the booster’s capability pic.twitter.com/cNLmp3Pn7G— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 10, 2023
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Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.