SpaceX envisions transforming humans into a multi-planet species. The company runs operations every day to develop a Starship that will make it a reality. Before sending humans to Mars, SpaceX plans to launch a Starship carrying cargo in 2022. If the mission goes smoothly, the target date to send the first humans to the Red Planet is the year 2024. Starship will be a gigantic two-stage launch vehicle capable of transporting tons of cargo and one hundred passengers on long-duration voyages through deep space. The stainless-steel Starship will consist of a spacecraft and a rocket booster called Super Heavy -which will only be utilized to carry the Starship spacecraft out of Earth’s atmosphere. The booster will return from space to conduct a vertical landing at a spaceport, like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
Yes— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 5, 2020
The founder and Chief Engineer at SpaceX Elon Musk says Starship is “the key to making life multi-planetary & protecting the light of consciousness.” He sees the Red Planet as a second home for the human species, in case a massive destruction event wipes out humans on Earth. Starship will feature a 1,000 cubic meter cabin capable of accommodating 100 passengers. The common area will feature large windows, and private rooms could host three individuals comfortably. “The crew configuration of Starship includes private cabins, large common areas, centralized storage, solar storm shelters, and a viewing gallery,” SpaceX stated.
Musk explained that SpaceX would have to manufacture 1,000 Starships that would launch in fleets of 100, carrying astronauts and tons of cargo every twenty-six months –which is when Mars and Earth’s orbits align closer to conduct a shorter trip. A fleet would embark on a six to eight-month voyage to the Red Planet about every two years. At this rate, a sustainable Mars colony would be complete by the year 2050.
The first mission to Mars will consist of taking tons of cargo humans will need to survive on the rough Martian environment. Vital things like oxygen and food will be transported to Mars first, so, when the first astronauts arrive, they will have enough survival resources. Starship’s cargo configuration will not feature windows, it will be fully enclosed; capable of deploying over 100 tons of cargo. Its payload fairing will have a width of 8 meters and an extended volume capable of accommodating payloads as long as 22 meters. “The standard Starship payload fairing is 9 m [meter] in outer diameter resulting in the largest usable payload volume of any current or in development launcher,” SpaceX Starship user guide states. No other spacecraft currently operating is that large. This feature would enable companies to deploy entire constellations of satellites into low Earth orbit in a single launch. SpaceX officials said last year Starship would be capable of deploying 200 Starlink satellites at once!
SpaceX teams are rapidly manufacturing prototypes at the SpaceX South Texas facility at Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville, TX. These prototypes will undergo a series of tests that pave the way towards developing a space-ready launch vehicle. Musk shared an aerial photograph of the location in June and called it – “Gateway to Mars.” In just a couple of years, the facility has grown to become a Starship factory. Musk told SpaceX employees Starship development is a top priority. He hopes to accomplish conducting a high-altitude test flight of 20 kilometers and possibly taking Starship to orbit, around 100 kilometers, before the year ends.
Gateway to Mars— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 7, 2020
This week, SpaceX engineers are focused on preparing the Starship SN5 test vehicle for a static-fire test, which is a pre-flight preparation to ensure the craft’s Raptor engine is working well. SN5 is expected to perform a low altitude test flight of approximately 150-meters above Boca Chica Beach. The first test could take place in a couple of weeks. According to the Boca Chica Cameron County website, road closures indicate SpaceX could conduct a brief test ignition of Starship SN5’s engine as soon as July 16.
Watch Live views of SpaceX operations at Boca Chica in the video below!