image credit: SpaceXvision
SpaceX plans to send a fleet of 1,000 Starships to Mars -100 per year over the course of 10 years.
SpaceX plans to build a sustainable city on Mars before the year 2050. The rocket company operates twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to achieve that vision. Engineers are in the process of developing a massive spacecraft called Starship, which will require a gigantic Super Heavy rocket booster to liftoff to space. The development of this spaceship-rocket duo is currently taking place at a SpaceX facility located in Brownsville, Boca Chica Beach, Texas. Teams are building a production line of Starship prototypes in Texas that will perform a series of pressurization and flight tests this year.
The final version of Starship is designed to become the most powerful rocket-spaceship duo ever created. Starship will be powered by 41 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. Starship will be capable of performing long-voyages to Mars carrying 100 passengers plus 100 tons of cargo.
The founder and chief engineer at SpaceX, Elon Musk, says "Megatons per year to orbit are needed for life to become multiplanetary." In order to build a permanent settlement on Mars and maintain a human presence throughout the years, he estimates that a fleet of 1,000 Starships will be needed to transport 100 megatons of crucial cargo to the Red Planet. Humans will need a lot of resources to survive in Martian environment. One of the main resources that must be transported is precious oxygen, humans cannot breathe without spacesuits and habitats featuring life support systems that pump-out oxygen. Food, soil, oxygen, machinery to build, among other things, will be needed on Mars to maintain the first settlers healthy. "...In order to make something self-sustaining, you can’t be missing anything. You must have all the ingredients. It can’t be like, well this thing is self-sustaining except for this one little thing that we don’t have. It can’t be." Musk said to reporters, "That’d be like saying, ‘Well ... we had everything except vitamin C.’ Okay, great. Now you’re going to get scurvy and die—and painfully, by the way. It’s going to suck. You’re going to die slowly and painfully for lack of vitamin C. So we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the vitamin C there on Mars." So, chances of survival increase with 1,000 Starships carrying tons of vital cargo.
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
A fleet of 1,000 Starships could transport 100 passengers each. That would be a total 100,000 people settling on the Red Planet. Launching fleets of Starships, would happen once every 2 years, because the time that the orbits of Earth and Mars get closer in alignment is about every 26 months. Taking advantage of closer orbit periods allows for Starship to thrust forward from Earth's rotation and embark on a low-fuel journey toward Mars. Musk explained he would take advantage of that opportunity by "loading the Mars fleet into Earth orbit," then sending all 100 ships to Mars over that 30-day planet alignment window every 26 months. At that rate, a million humans could be living on Mars by 2050!
Though, the goal is not only to build a sustainable city on Mars, SpaceX aspires to transform humanity into a spacefaring civilization. That means, future Martians will be tasked with building a propellant plant to refuel Starship's Raptor engines and return to Earth. SpaceX engineers are developing Starship with reusability in mind, capable of conducting an average of 3 flights per day, that is an average of 1,000 flights per year for one particular Starship!
Imagine a future where fleets of Starships conduct frequent voyages from Earth to Mars and from Mars to Earth...
Loading the Mars fleet into Earth orbit, then 1000 ships depart over ~30 days every 26 months. Battlestar Galactica …— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 17, 2020
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.