Featured Image Source: NASA Astronaut @JonnyKimUSA via Twitter
SpaceX is developing a technologically advanced spacecraft that will enable humans to return to the lunar surface. The aerospace company is working on the development of Starship at the SpaceX South Texas Launch Facility located in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville, TX. NASA awarded SpaceX a contract under the Artemis program to develop a Starship Lunar Lander to launch astronauts and cargo to the Moon by 2024. The agency announced last year Starship is eligible for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) NASA program to deliver payloads between Earth and the Moon. “The SpaceX human lander design is a single-stage solution with Starship, their fully reusable launch and landing system designed for travel to the Moon, Mars and beyond,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said last year. Bridenstine shared that SpaceX’s Starship Lunar Lander “proposal included an in-space propellant transfer demonstration and uncrewed test landing.”
Boca Chica visitors captured a photograph of the first prototype of the lunar-optimized NASA Starship at the rocket assembly facility, shown below. A notable difference between the Mars Starship design versus the lunar-optimized Starship is that it does not feature the aerodynamic fins, nor an extra heat-shield coat like the Mars’ vehicle design. "A lunar optimized Starship can fly many times between the surface of the Moon and lunar orbit without flaps or heat shielding required for Earth return. With large habitable and storage volume, Starship is capable of delivering significant amounts of cargo for research and to support robust operations on the lunar surface to enable a sustainable Moonbase," SpaceX stated.
Image Source: Steve Jurvetson @FutureJurvetson via Twitter
Today, January 15, NASA astronauts Jonny Kim and Bob Hines traveled to the southernmost tip of Texas aboard the agency's Northrop T-38 jet, they conducted a fly over above Boca Chica Beach and took aerial photographs of the SpaceX Starship assembly facility and launch pad, where the shiny stainless-steel SN9 prototype of the spacecraft awaits a flight test. –“Great day for a training flight with Bob Hines. Caught a nice view of the launch pad at SpaceX Boca Chica,” Astronaut Kim captioned the set of aerial photographs via Twitter. The astronauts landed at the Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport near the SpaceX facility, drove down to Boca Chica Beach, and happily greeted spaceflight enthusiasts in front of the Starship SN9 vehicle at the launch pad, photos below. [*Edited January 16. Added Airport name.]
The sandy piece of land has been rapidly transformed into a rocket factory, with massive vehicle assembly buildings and the on-going constrution of the first orbital-class Starship launchpad. SpaceX envisions transforming Boca Chica Beach into a '21st century spaceport and resort' where employees can enjoy living and working towards making life multiplanetary. Multiple stainless-steel Starship prototypes are simultaneously under assembly. Each will undergo testing that will provide engineers insight towards the development of a space-ready launch vehicle.
Two future Lunar Astronauts and one Martian standing in front of the future of interplanetary travel🚀 pic.twitter.com/Velh4L8jv8— Austin Barnard🚀 (@austinbarnard45) January 15, 2021
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.