The tiny beach village of Boca Chica is rapidly transforming into a spaceport that will support SpaceX’s greatest ambition – to return NASA astronauts to the lunar surface and land the first crew on Mars within this decade. SpaceX founder Elon Musk calls the sandy region the ‘Gateway to Mars’, from where he envisions a fleet of Starships will embark on voyages to colonize the Red Planet. He hopes that Starship can help humanity plant the seed of consciousness throughout the Solar System.
“What we’re aiming to develop with Starship is a generalized means of transporting large amounts of mass, or people… anywhere in the solar system,” Musk said on November 17 at the National Academies Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 183rd Space Studies Board conference. Starship with its Super Heavy rocket will be capable of propelling over 100 metric tons of cargo to Earth orbit, powered by 33 Raptor engines that will be capable of producing more than 16 million pounds of thrust, making it the world's most powerful launch vehicle.
“The idea behind this is to have the first fully and rapidly reusable rocket. That’s really the holy grail of rocketry. If you can have a fully and rapidly reusable…orbital rocket, then the cost of transport to orbit drops by about two orders of magnitude, maybe better,” he said. Musk estimates the cost of Starship flight will fall below the cost of a Falcon 9 rocket launch which is priced at around $62 million. Musk said on multiple occasions that long-term SpaceX targets to decrease a Starship launch cost to $2 million, the price would significantly decrease due to full reusability. SpaceX aims to develop a Starship/Super Heavy launch system capable of being reused as much as an airplane, with its primary maintenance and cost being propellant.
“I think it is a very profound vehicle,” Musk said about Starship, “I don’t think anything like it is being developed, and I don’t think anything quite like it has even been proposed, but it has the potential to affect human destiny in a very good way.” Musk hopes Starship will help humanity build the first sustainable settlement on Mars and enable astronauts to explore other celestial bodies in our Solar System to gain understanding of our place in the Universe and make new discoveries. Starship will be capable of exploring Saturn and its icy moons - Titan and Enceladus - which scientists believe may be capable of harboring life, potentially habitable for humans.
During the conference, Musk mentioned that a Starship vehicle can be transformed into a giant telescope with 10X’s higher-resolution than NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. “This is taking a ground-based lens, or a lens that was intended for a ground-based telescope, and creating a space-based telescope with it,” he said. “So, that could be, I think, pretty interesting, and we’d love to do other things as well.”
“The great thing about Starship is it really should enable us to send very big things, and also to send them fast,” Musk added, “We need much less in the way of planetary gravity assists and that kind of thing.” He also briefly mentioned SpaceX’s partnership with NASA. The agency awarded the company a $2.9 billion Human Landing System (HLS) contract to develop a lunar-optimized Starship to land NASA astronauts on the lunar surface by 2025. “We’re not assuming any international collaboration. We’re building this thing right now. We’re really building it from internal funds,” Musk said about Starship’s development cost. “NASA is providing some support because they intend to use Starship for transporting astronauts to the surface of the moon but this has been an internally funded effort, probably at least 90% internally funded so far,” he shared. Musk previously said that he is using his own wealth to help develop a fleet of around 1,000 Starships over the next 20 years that will enable humanity to build a second home on Mars. "I am accumulating resources to help make life multiplanetary and extend the light of consciousness to the stars," he says.
SpaceX is actively developing the Starship launch vehicle in South Texas. The first orbital flight attempt is planned for early next year. Read more: SpaceX Plans To Conduct At Least A Dozen Starship Launches In 2022, Targets First Orbital Flight Test As Soon As January
Featured Image 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.