Featured Image Source: Tesmanian.com/Evelyn J. Arevalo @JaneidyEve via Twitter
SpaceX is working towards transforming humans into a multi-planet species. The company is developing a fully-reusable Starship capable of performing long-duration voyages to Mars. Engineers are working on the creation of a massive stainless-steel spacecraft that could transport 100 passengers and the Super Heavy rocket that could propel 100 tons of cargo to orbit. Not only is SpaceX taking on the challenge of developing a fully-reusable interplanetary launch vehicle, it is also creating a production system at the Starbase factory located in Boca Chica Beach, Texas, to manufacture hundreds of Starships within the next 10 years.
During a recent TED interview, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the goal to colonize Mars will require 1,000 reusable Starships to launch megatons of cargo in order to create the first self-sustaining city before the year 2050. SpaceX aims to manufacture Starships at a rate of one per month by the end of 2022. “We have built a production system for Starship, we’re making a lot of ships and boosters,” Musk shared, “We are currently expecting to make a booster and a [Star]ship…initially roughly every couple of months and then, hopefully, by the end of this year one every month,” he said.
Musk believes it is important to have a high production rate because it enables engineers to move on rapidly to test the next prototype after a failure. "A high production rate solves many ills. If you have a high production rate, you have a high iteration rate. For pretty much any technology whatsoever, the progress is a function of how many iterations do you have, and how much progress do you make between each iteration,” Musk told reporters in 2020. “If you have a high production rate then you have many iterations. You can make progress from one to the next."
Long-term, SpaceX aims to build at least one Starship each week to achieve building the fleet of 1,000 Starships by 2050. At that rate, the company would achieve building around 100 Starships every 2 years. In 2020, Musk said the Starbase factory assembly line will eventually be capable of manufacturing a Starship every 72 hours! Musk’s plan is to launch a fleet of around 100 Starships to orbit to send passengers and cargo every 2 years to the Red Planet. The orbits of Earth and Mars align approximately every 26 months for a shorter duration voyage of around 6 to 8 months.
In the meantime, engineers continue to work around-the-clock at the Starbase factory. The company is simultaneously building Starship and Super Heavy prototypes and conducting ground tests at the launch site. They have already performed multiple test flights since 2019 and are preparing to conduct the first orbital flight test with a fully-stacked Super Heavy Starship. “It is looking promising for us to have an orbital launch attempt in a few months. So we’re actually integrating - will be integrating the engines into the booster for the first orbital flight starting in about a week or two,” Musk said on April 6. “And the launch complex itself is ready to go. So assuming we get regulatory approval, I think we could have an orbital launch attempt within a few months. [...] Success is not guaranteed but excitement certainly is,” he acknowledged. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is conducting an environmental assessment of the South Texas launch facility to ensure safe spaceflight operations. The FAA targets to complete the review by April 29th, however, it has been conducting the assessment for roughly 9 months and delayed its completion three times now. We will see in the coming days if the Administration completes it and allows SpaceX to apply for a Starship flight license to continue the spacecraft's development. Read more: Elon Musk gives hypothetical price point of $100,000 per Starship ticket to launch 1 million people to Mars
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Featured Images Source: Tesmanian.com / Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo @JaneidyEve via Twitter