Featured Image Source: Elon Musk
SpaceX is developing Starship to enable humans to become a multi-planet species. The founder and Chief Engineer at SpaceX Elon Musk says Starship is the key to “protecting the light of consciousness.” He sees the Red Planet as a second home for the human species, in case a drastic event would affect life on Earth. “The future of humanity is going to bifurcate in two directions: Either it’s going to become multi-planetary, or it’s going to remain confined to one planet and eventually there’s going to be an extinction event,” he said. Musk envisions a fleet of Starships embarking on a voyage to the Red Planet. The company aims to launch the first Starship with cargo in 2022, and the first crewed voyage to Mars until 2024.
SpaceX engineers are manufacturing prototypes of the stainless-steel spacecraft at a facility located in Boca Chica Beach, Texas -a quiet small village in the southernmost tip of Texas along the border with Mexico. The company is also working on building a floating spaceport in the Gulf of Mexico – “SpaceX is building floating, Super Heavy-class spaceports for Mars, moon & hypersonic travel around Earth,” Musk said last month. To leave Earth’s atmosphere, Starship will require a massive Super Heavy rocket, that will propel Starship with passengers to orbit, then land to be reused, like a Falcon 9 rocket. It will require a spaceport at sea to launch from.
SpaceX is building floating, superheavy-class spaceports for Mars, moon & hypersonic travel around Earth https://t.co/zLJjz43hKw— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 16, 2020
Musk also envisions a future where Starship can function for Earth-to-Earth transportation, like airplanes. Starship would be capable of transporting 1,000 passengers, and blast off a spaceport at sea, fly up 10,000 kilometers high through the atmosphere into the exosphere, where air resistance is minimal, it would circle the globe in a matter of minutes. For perspective, Starship would be traveling at a speed of “Mach 25” –the speed of an inter-continental ballistic missile equivalent to 19,182 miles per hour. The passengers would arrive at any city across Earth in less than 1 hour! Flying from New York to Paris on a commercial airplane typically takes about 7 hours and 20 minutes, that same trip onboard Starship would only take 30 minutes!
Today, July 30, a full-scale prototype of Starship, referred to as SN5, completed a static-fire test of its Raptor engine – “Starship SN5 just completed full duration static fire. 150m hop soon,” Musk announced. The launch could take place within the week ahead [date pending]. During a static-fire test, the Raptor engine was briefly ignited as the stainless-steel vehicle is attached to the testing stand. Engineers assess its performance to ensure the engine is ready ahead of flight. Boca Chica residents captured footage of today's test, shown below.
Starship SN5 will attempt a 150-meter debut test flight above Boca Chica Beach, it will be the first time the company launches a larger-scale Starship prototype. Previous prototypes failed to make it this far, two imploded during cryogenic pressure testing. Completing the Raptor’s static-firing today is a milestone check marked off of Starship’s development list. Starship SN5’s upcoming test flight will take the company closer towards launching the craft to orbit. Musk previously said SN5 will fly without a top nose cone section, nor aerodynamic fins. So, only the large stainless-steel cylinder structure is expected to fly with a single Raptor engine. The next prototype in line will conduct a 20-kilometer test flight fully-assembled, with the power of three Raptor engines. If those couple of test flights go smoothly, SpaceX could conduct an orbital attempt, at an altitude of around 100-kilometers above the ground, sometime before this year ends.
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.