Building a self-sustaining city on Mars would be one of humanity's greatest achievements. It sounds like something straight out of a science fiction films but SpaceX is seriously working on the development of a reusable Starship/Super Heavy launch vehicle that will completely revolutionize space exploration to expand life across the Solar System. SpaceX founder Elon Musk envisions a fleet of 1,000 fully-reusable Starships that will help humanity build the first colony on the Red Planet.
Reusability is extremely necessary to achieve this grand mission. Megatons of vital cargo will be needed to ensure astronauts' long-term survival. Musk says the Starship fleet will be built over 20 years to hopefully have the first Martian colony up-and-running before the year 2050. For this to become a reality within the 51-year-old's lifetime, SpaceX must increase the rate of innovation and production. Starship is still under development at the Starbase facility located in Boca Chica Village, Texas. Engineers are working around-the-clock to perform the first-ever orbital flight test that will provide insight into how to improve the two-stage rocket ship. The company aims to conduct this flight before 2022 comes to a close.
SpaceX is developing a lunar-optimized Starship Human Landing System (HLS) for NASA to land astronauts on the Moon by 2025 as part of the Artemis program. A NASA official shared SpaceX has 'moved very quickly' on the development of Starship, now manufacturing one Raptor engine per day, according to ArsTechnica. The engines are manufactured at SpaceX’s factory in McGregor, Texas. "SpaceX has moved very quickly on development," said NASA Artemis Campaign Development Administrator Mark Kirasich. "We've seen them [SpaceX] manufacture what was called Raptor 1.0. They have since upgraded to Raptor 2.0 that first of all increases performance and thrust and secondly reduces the amount of parts, reducing the amount of time to manufacture and test," he shared, "They [SpaceX] build these things very fast. Their goal was seven engines a week, and they hit that about a quarter ago. So they are now building seven engines a week."
Each Starship is equipped with 6 methane-fueled Raptor 2.0 (V2) engines, three with a much larger nozzle optimized for the vacuum of space (pictured above). Super Heavy is equipped with 33 Raptors, capable of producing over 12 million pounds of thrust. Each Raptor 2.0 rocket engine produces over half a million pounds (around 230 tons) of force. Regarding production volume, Musk has previously said that the company's goal is to manufacture "2 to 4 engines per day. That’s super high volume for big rocket engines, but low volume by automotive standards,” he said. Long-term, SpaceX targets to manufacture “roughly 800 to 1,000 [engines] per year.” –“That’s about what’s needed over ten years to create the fleet to build a self-sustaining city on Mars. City itself probably takes roughly 20 years, so hopefully it is built by ~2050,” Musk said in 2021. Raptor engines are specifically designed for Mars colonization. The engines are fueled by a combination of cryogenic liquid methane (CH4) and cryogenic liquid oxygen (LOX) which can be synthesized on the Red Planet's surface. The brave pioneers who will build 'Mars Base Alpha' will build a propellant plant to produce Starship fuel by extracting carbon dioxide from the planet’s thin atmosphere and digging subsurface ice-water to create CH4 and LOX through the Sabatier process and electrolysis.
Roughly 800 to 1000 per year. That’s about what’s needed over ten years to create the fleet to build a self-sustaining city on Mars. City itself probably takes roughly 20 years, so hopefully it is built by ~2050.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 10, 2021
All Featured Images Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
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.