“The future of humanity is going to bifurcate in two directions: Either it’s going to become multi-planetary, or it’s going to remain confined to one planet and eventually there’s going to be an extinction event,” the founder of SpaceX Elon Musk says. He founded SpaceX with the purpose of developing the spacecraft that could enable humanity to colonize Mars. “Starship is the key to making life multi-planetary and protecting the light of consciousness,” Musk said earlier this year. The Starship spacecraft and the Super Heavy rocket booster are under development at the SpaceX South Texas Launch Facility located at Boca Chica Beach where stainless-steel prototypes of the launch vehicle are undergoing testing. This year the aerospace company test launched three Starship prototypes and is already preparing to perform another high-altitude test flight early 2021.
The final version of Starship is designed to become the world's most powerful rocket-spaceship duo. The Starship launch vehicle’s Super Heavy rocket booster will be powered by 28 next-generation Raptor engines that will surpass the thrust capabilities of the Saturn V rocket that took astronauts to the moon during NASA's Apollo missions. Once operational, Starship could carry 100 passengers or over 100 metric tons (220,000 pounds) of cargo, more than any rocket in operation. Super Heavy will propel Starship to low Earth orbit and land back to be reused as Starship embarks on a voyage to the Moon or Mars. Starship will be powered by 6 Raptor engines, three vacuum-optimized engines for propulsion in space and three sea-level engines for atmospheric flight.
SpaceX has not published a specific timeline for when its first missions to Mars will be, Musk has previously stated that the first Martian base could be up and running by 2028. He targets to launch the first crewed mission by 2026 and the first uncrewed cargo mission as early as 2024. To create a self-sustaining city on the Red Planet, Musk says SpaceX must build approximately 1,000 Starships to deliver megatons of cargo that will be needed to increase the astronauts chances of survival on the Martian surface. “…Building ~1000 Starships to create a self-sustaining city on Mars is our mission,” he wrote via Twitter Wednesday morning.
Production is hard, prototypes are easy. Building ~1000 Starships to create a self-sustaining city on Mars is our mission.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 30, 2020
To achieve that ambitious goal, SpaceX could build one hundred Starships per year over the course of ten years. –“Building 100 Starships per year gets to 1,000 in 10 years or 100 megatons per year or maybe around 100,000 people per Earth-Mars orbital sync,” Musk said in January. SpaceX would launch a Starship fleet approximately every 26 months, which is when Earth and Mars orbits align closer to each other.
Building 100 Starships/year gets to 1000 in 10 years or 100 megatons/year or maybe around 100k people per Earth-Mars orbital sync— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2020
You can watch SpaceX operations as they work to develop the Starship spacecraft at the South Texas facility in the video below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube. In the weeks ahead, SpaceX plans to continue preflight preparations of the Starship SN9 prototype that is awaiting at the launchpad. Meanwhile, teams at the assembly facility are manufacturing multiple vehicles that will also undergo testing next year.
SpaceX South Texas Starship Launch Pad Live 24/7
About the Author
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.