Artist's concept of Starship launch vehicle in flight
|Country of origin||United States|
|Cost per launch||US$2 million (anticipated)|
|Height||122 m (400 ft)|
|Diameter||9 m (30 ft)|
|Mass||5,000,000 kg (11,000,000 lb) (with payload)|
|Payload to LEO||>100,000 kg (220,000 lb)|
|Family||SpaceX launch vehicles|
|First stage – Super Heavy|
|Length||70 m (230 ft)|
|Diameter||9 m (30 ft)|
|Empty mass||180,000 kg (400,000 lb) (estimated)|
|Gross mass||3,580,000 kg (7,890,000 lb) |
|Propellant mass||3,400,000 kg (7,500,000 lb)|
|Thrust||72,000 kN (16,000,000 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||330 s (3.2 km/s)|
4 / LOX
|Second stage – Starship|
|Length||50 m (160 ft)|
|Diameter||9 m (30 ft)|
|Empty mass||120,000 kg (260,000 lb)|
|Gross mass||1,320,000 kg (2,910,000 lb)|
|Propellant mass||1,200,000 kg (2,600,000 lb)|
|Thrust||c. 12,000 kN (2,700,000 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||380 s (3.7 km/s) (vacuum)|
4 / LOX
The second stage of the Starship — is designed as a long-duration cargo and passenger-carrying spacecraft. It is expected to be initially used without any booster stage at all, as part of an extensive development program to prove out launch-and-landing and iterate on a variety of design details, particularly with respect to the vehicle's atmospheric reentry.
While the spacecraft will be tested on its own at suborbital altitudes, it will be used on orbital launches with an additional booster stage, the Super Heavy, where the spacecraft will serve as the second stage on a two-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle.
Integrated system testing of a proof of concept for Starship began in March 2019, with the addition of a single Raptor rocket engine to a reduced-height prototype, nicknamed Starhopper — similar to Grasshopper, an equivalent prototype of the Falcon 9 reusable booster. Starhopper was used from April through August 2019 for static testing and low-altitude, low-velocity flight testing of vertical launches and landings in July and August 2019. More prototype Starships are under construction  and are expected to go through several iterations. All test articles have a 9 metres (30 ft) of diameter stainless steel hull.
SpaceX is planning to launch commercial payloads using Starship no earlier than 2021. In April 2020, NASA selected a modified human rated Starship system as one of three lunar landing systems to receive funding for a 10-month long initial design phase for the Artemis program.
While the name of the vehicle has changed many times over the years, the combination of Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy booster is called the "Starship system" by SpaceX in their payload users guide. Sometimes, as on the SpaceX website, the term "Starship" is used as a collective term for both the Starship spacecraft and the Super Heavy booster.
At least as early as 2005, SpaceX used the codename, "BFR", for a conceptual heavy-lift vehicle, "far larger than the Falcon family of vehicles", with a goal of 100 t (220,000 lb) to orbit. Beginning in mid-2013, SpaceX referred to both the mission architecture and the vehicle as the Mars Colonial Transporter. By the time a large 12-meter diameter design concept was unveiled in September 2016, SpaceX had begun referring to the overall system as the Interplanetary Transport System.
With the announcement of a new 9-meter design in September 2017, SpaceX resumed referring to the vehicle as "BFR". Musk said in the announcement, "we are searching for the right name, but the code name, at least, is BFR". SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell subsequently stated that BFR stands for, "Big Falcon Rocket". However, Elon Musk had explained in the past that although BFR is the official name, he drew inspiration from the BFG weapon in the Doom video games. The BFR had also occasionally been referred to informally by the media and internally at SpaceX as "Big Fucking Rocket". At the time, the second stage/spacecraft was referred to as "BFS".[a] The booster first stage was also at times referred to as the "BFB".[b] In November 2018, the spaceship was renamed Starship, and the first stage booster was named Super Heavy.
Notably, in the fashion of SpaceX, even that term "Super Heavy" had been previously used by SpaceX in a different context. In February 2018, at about the time of the first Falcon Heavy launch, Musk had "suggested the possibility of a Falcon Super Heavy — a Falcon Heavy with extra boosters. 'We could really dial it up to as much performance as anyone could ever want. If we wanted to we could actually add two more side boosters and make it Falcon Super Heavy'".
The launch vehicle was initially mentioned in public discussions by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in 2012 as part of a description of the company's overall Mars system architecture, then known as "Mars Colonial Transporter" (MCT). By August 2014, media sources speculated that the initial flight test of the Raptor-driven super-heavy launch vehicle could occur as early as 2020, in order to fully test the engines under orbital spaceflight conditions; however, any colonization effort was then reported to continue to be "deep into the future".
In mid-September 2016, Musk noted that the Mars Colonial Transporter name would not continue, as the system would be able to "go well beyond Mars", and that a new name would be needed. The name selected was "Interplanetary Transport System" (ITS), although in an AMA on Reddit on 23 October 2016, Musk stated, "I think we need a new name. ITS just isn't working. I'm using BFR and BFS for the rocket and spaceship, which is fine internally, but...", without stating what the new name might be. In September 2017, at the 68th annual meeting of the International Astronautical Congress, SpaceX unveiled an updated vehicle design. Musk said, "we are searching for the right name, but the code name, at least, is BFR".
In a September 2018 announcement of a planned 2023 lunar circumnavigation mission, a private spaceflight called dearMoon project, Musk showed another redesigned concept for the second stage and spaceship with three rear fins and two front canard fins added for atmospheric entry, replacing the previous delta wing and split flaps shown a year earlier. The design was to use seven identically-sized Raptor engines in the second stage; the same engine model as would be used on the first stage. The second stage design had two small actuating canard fins near the nose of the ship, and three large fins at the base, two of which would actuate, with all three serving as landing legs. Additionally, SpaceX also stated in the second half of the month that they were "no longer planning to upgrade Falcon 9 second stage for reusability". The two major parts of the launch vehicle were given descriptive names in November 2018: "Starship" for the upper stage and "Super Heavy" for the booster stage, which Musk pointed out was "needed to escape Earth's deep gravity well (not needed for other planets or moons)".
In January 2019, Elon Musk announced that the Starship would no longer be constructed out of carbon fiber, and that stainless steel would be used instead to build the Starship. Musk cited several reasons including cost, strength, and ease of production to justify making the switch.
In May 2019, the Starship design changed back to just six Raptor engines, with three optimized for sea-level and three optimized for vacuum. By late May 2019, the first prototype, Starhopper, was preparing for untethered flight tests in Brownsville, Texas, while two orbital prototypes were under construction, one in South Texas begun in March 2019 and one on the Florida space coast begun before May 2019. The build of the first Super Heavy booster stage was projected to be able to start by September 2019. At the time, neither of the two orbital prototypes yet had aerodynamic control surfaces nor landing legs added to the under construction tank structures, and Musk indicated that the design for both would be changing once again. On 21 September 2019, the externally-visible "moving fins" began to be added to the Mk1 prototype, giving a view into the promised mid-2019 redesign of the aerodynamic control surfaces for the test vehicles.
In June 2019, SpaceX publicly announced discussions had begun with three telecommunications companies for using Starship, rather than Falcon 9, for launching commercial satellites for paying customers in 2021. No specific companies or launch contracts were announced at that time.
In July 2019, the Starhopper made its initial flight test, a "hop" of around 20 m (66 ft) altitude, and a second and final "hop" in August 2019, reaching an altitude of around 150 m (490 ft) and landing around 100 m (330 ft) from the launchpad.
SpaceX completed most of the Boca Chica prototype, the Starship Mk1, in time for Musk's next public update in September 2019. Watching the construction in progress before the event, observers online circulated photos and speculated about the most visible change, a move to two tail fins from the earlier three. During the event, Musk added that landing would now be accomplished on six dedicated landing legs, following a re-entry protected by glass heat tiles. Updated specifications were provided: when optimized, Starship was expected to mass at 120,000 kg (260,000 lb) empty and be able to initially transport a payload of 100,000 kg (220,000 lb) with an objective of growing that to 150,000 kg (330,000 lb) over time. Musk suggested that an orbital flight might be achieved by the fourth or fifth test prototype in 2020, using a Super Heavy booster in a two-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle configuration, and emphasis was placed on possible future lunar missions.
In 2019, the cost per launch for Starship was estimated by SpaceX to be as low as US$2 million once the company achieves a robust operational cadence and achieves the technological advance of full and rapid reusability. Full reusability of the second stage of Starship is a fundamental design goal for the entire Starship development program, but success is uncertain. Elon Musk has said in 2020 that, with a high flight rate, they could potentially go even lower, with a fully-burdened marginal cost on the order of US$10 per kilogram of payload launched to low Earth orbit.
In November 2019, the Mk1 test article in Texas came apart in a tank pressure test, and SpaceX stated they would cease to build the Mk2 prototype under construction in Florida and move on to work on the Mk3 article. A few weeks later, the work on the vehicles in Florida slowed down substantially, with some assemblies that had been built in Florida for those vehicles being transported to the Texas Starship assembly location, and a reported 80% reduction in the workforce at the Florida assembly location as SpaceX pauses activities there. Apparently, at the same time the Mk4 vehicle under construction in Florida was cancelled.
The Mk3 article was renamed Starship SN1 by SpaceX, to signify the major evolution in building techniques: the rings were now taller and each was made of one single sheet of steel, drastically reducing the welding lines (thus failure points). Also the worksite was expanded with more tents, structures and upgraded machinery to give the workers a much better controlled environment, allowing for better precision work and, more importantly, better quality welds. Smaller articles were made and tested to destruction to validate the new bulkheads design.[better source needed] This was a significant change of pace for SpaceX's approach.
In February 2020, SN1 too was destroyed when undergoing pressurization. The company then focused on resolving the problem that led to SN1's failure by assembling a stripped down version of their next planned prototype, SN2. This time the test was successful and SpaceX began work on SN3. However, in April 2020, SN3 was also destroyed during testing due to a test configuration error. At that time, construction of SN4 was underway.
On April 26, 2020, Starship SN4 became the first full-scale prototype to pass a cryogenic proof test, in which the ship's liquid oxygen and methane was replaced with similarly frigid but non-explosive liquid nitrogen. SN4 was only pressurized to 4.9 bar (~70 psi), which is more than enough to perform a small flight test. On 5 May 2020, SN4 completed a single engine static fire with one mounted Raptor engine and became the first full Starship tank to pass a Raptor static fire. SN4 would complete a total of 4 short static fires (2 to 5 seconds long) before being destroyed in a massive explosion due to a propellant leak from the quick disconnect mechanism occurring at the end of a test fire on 29 May 2020.
SN7 test tank was also tested all the way to leak at around 7.8 bar after which it was repaired and tested to destruction. Currently SN6 is undergoing construction.
On 30 July 2020, Starship SN5 completed a static fire with one mounted Raptor engine. On 3 August 2020, Starship SN5 attempted a 150 meter flight test that was aborted due to a spin start valve on the Raptor engine not opening. At approximately 11:00 AM CDT on 4 August 2020, SpaceX again attempted a 150 flight test that was again aborted. Later that day, at approximately 7:00 PM CDT, Starship SN5 completed the 150 metre flight test, landing at an adjacent landing site, thus becoming the first full-scale prototype to perform a successful flight test. After the flight, Elon Musk stated that SpaceX would carry out several additional short flights in order to refine the launch process, before attempting a high altitude flight using a vehicle with body flaps.
While the Starship program had a small development team for several years, and a larger development and build team since late 2018, Musk declared in June 2020 that Starship is the top SpaceX priority, except for anything related to reduction of Crew Dragon return risk for the NASA Demo-2 flight to the ISS.
Super Heavy, the booster stage "needed to escape Earth's deep gravity well", is expected to be 70 metres (230 ft) long and 9 metres (30 ft) in diameter with a gross liftoff mass of 3,680,000 kg (8,110,000 lb). It is to be constructed of stainless steel tanks and structure, holding subcooled liquid methane and liquid oxygen (CH
4/LOX) propellants, powered by 31 Raptor rocket engines that will provide 72,000 kilonewtons (16,000,000 lbf) total liftoff thrust. The specification propellant capacity of Super Heavy was shown as 3,400,000 kg (7,500,000 lb) in May 2020, 3% more than estimated in September 2019.
In September 2019, several Super Heavy external design changes were announced. The booster stage is now intended to have six fins that serve exclusively:26:25–28:35 as fairings to cover the six landing legs, and four diamond-shaped welded steel grid fins to provide aerodynamic control on descent.
In September 2016, Elon Musk described the possibility of landing the ITS booster on the launch pad. He re-described this in September 2017 with the Big Falcon Booster (BFB). According to the SpaceX animation of the launch of Starship, the Super Heavy booster is not expected to land on the launch pad at all. In 2019, Musk announced that it will initially have landing legs to support the early VTVL development testing of Super Heavy.
As of September 2019[update], the Starship upper stage is expected to be a 9-metre diameter (30 ft), 50-metre-tall (160 ft), fully reusable spacecraft with a dry mass of 120 t (260,000 lb) or less, powered by six methane/oxygen-propellant Raptor engines, three of them will be for use at sea-level while the other three would be used for Vacuum burns. Total Starship thrust will be approximately 2,600,000 lbf (11,500 kN).
Unusual for previous launch vehicle and spacecraft designs, Starship is intended to function both as a second stage to reach orbital velocity on launches from Earth, and also be used in outer space as an on-orbit long-duration spacecraft. Starship is being designed so as to be capable of reentering Earth's atmosphere from orbital velocities and landing vertically, with a design goal of rapid reusability.
Starship will use three sea-level optimized Raptor engines and three vacuum-optimized Raptor engines. These sea-level engines are identical to the engines on the Super Heavy booster. Transport use in space is expected to use a vacuum-optimized Raptor engine variant to optimize specific impulse (Isp) to approximately 380 s (8,300 mph; 3.7 km/s).
According to Musk, when Starship is used for BEO launches to Mars, the functioning of the overall expedition system will necessarily include propellant production on the Mars surface. He says that this is necessary for the return trip and to reuse the spaceship to keep costs as low as possible. He also says that lunar destinations (circumlunar flybys, orbits and landings) will be possible without lunar-propellant depots, so long as the spaceship is refueled in a high-elliptical orbit before the lunar transit begins. Some lunar flybys will be possible without orbital refueling as evidenced by the mission profile of the dearMoon project.
The SpaceX approach is to tackle the hardest problems first, and Musk sees the hardest problem for getting to sustainable human civilization on Mars to be building a fully-reusable orbital Starship, so that is the major focus of SpaceX resources as of 2020. For example, it is planned for the spacecraft to eventually incorporate life support systems, but as of September 2019[update], Musk stated that it is yet to be developed, as the first flights will be uncrewed.
A modified version known as the Starship Human Landing System (Starship HLS) was selected by NASA for potential use for long-duration crewed lunar landings as part of NASA's Artemis program. The Starship HLS variant is being designed to stay on and around the Moon and as such both the heat shield and air-brakes — integral parts of the main Starship design — are not included in the Starship HLS design. The variant will use high-thrust methox RCS thrusters located mid-body on Starship HLS during the final "tens of meters" of the terminal lunar descent and landing,, and will also include a smaller crew area and a much larger cargo bay, be powered by a solar array located on its nose below the docking port. SpaceX intends to use the same high-thrust RCS thrusters for liftoff from the lunar surface.:50:30 If built, the HLS variant would be launched to lunar orbit via the Super Heavy booster and would use orbital refueling to reload propellants into Starship HLS for the lunar transit and lunar landing operations. In the mission concept, a NASA Orion spacecraft would carry a NASA crew to the lander where they would depart and descend to the surface in Starship HLS. After Lunar surface operations, it would ascend using the same Starship HLS vehicle and return the crew to the Orion. Although not confirmed yet, the vehicle in theory could be refueled in orbit to carry more crews and cargo to the surface.
SpaceX is one of three organizations who are developing their lunar lander designs for the Artemis program over a 10-month period in 2020-2021. If SpaceX completes the milestone-based requirements of the design contract, then NASA will pay SpaceX US$135 million in design development funding. The other teams selected are the 'National Team' — led by Blue Origin but including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper — with US$579 million in design funding and Dynetics — with SNC and other unspecified companies — with US$253 million in NASA funding. At the end of the ten month program, NASA will evaluate which contractors will be offered contracts for initial demonstration missions and select firms for development and maturation of lunar lander systems.
Two (Starhopper, Mk1) test articles were being built by March 2019, and three (Starhopper, Mk1, Mk2) by May 2019. The low-altitude, low-velocity Starhopper was used for initial integrated testing of the Raptor rocket engine with a flight-capable propellant structure, and was slated to also test the newly designed autogenous pressurization system that is replacing traditional helium tank pressurization as well as initial launch and landing algorithms for the much larger 9-metre-diameter (30 ft) rocket. SpaceX originally developed their reusable booster technology for the 3-meter-diameter Falcon 9 from 2012 to 2018. The Starhopper prototype was also the platform for the first flight tests of the full-flow staged combustion methalox Raptor engine, where the hopper vehicle was flight tested with a single engine in July/August 2019, but could be fitted with up to three engines to facilitate engine-out tolerance testing.
The high-altitude, high-velocity 'Starship orbital prototypes' (everything after Starhopper) are planned to be used to develop and flight test thermal protection systems and hypersonic reentry control surfaces. Each orbital prototype is expected to be outfitted with more than three Raptor engines.
The construction of the initial test article — the Starship Hopper or Starhopper — was begun in early December 2018 and the external frame and skin was complete by 10 January 2019. Constructed outside in the open on a SpaceX property just two miles (3.2 km) from Boca Chica Beach in South Texas, the external body of the rocket rapidly came together in less than six weeks from half inch (12.5 mm) steel. Originally thought by onlookers at the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site to be the initial construction of a large water tower, the stainless steel vehicle was built by welders and construction workers in more of a shipyard form of construction than traditional aerospace manufacturing. The full Starhopper vehicle is 9 metres (30 ft) in diameter and was originally 39 metres (128 ft) tall in January 2019. Subsequent wind damage to the nose cone of the vehicle resulted in a SpaceX decision to scrap the nose section, and fly the low-velocity hopper tests with no nose cone, resulting in a much shorter test vehicle.
From mid-January to early-March 2019, a major focus of the manufacture of the test article was to complete the pressure vessel construction for the liquid methane and liquid oxygen tanks, including plumbing up the system, and moving the lower tank section of the vehicle two miles (3.2 km) to the launch pad on 8 March 2019. Integrated system testing of the Starhopper — with the newly built ground support equipment (GSE) at the SpaceX South Texas facilities — began in March 2019. "These tests involved fueling Starhopper with LOX and liquid methane and testing the pressurization systems, observed via icing of propellant lines leading to the vehicle and the venting of cryogenic boil off at the launch/test site. During a period of over a week, StarHopper underwent almost daily tanking tests, wet dress rehearsals and a few pre-burner tests."
Following initial integrated system testing of the Starhopper test vehicle with Raptor engine serial number 2 (Raptor SN2) in early April, the engine was removed for post-test analysis and several additions were made to the Starhopper. Attitude control system thrusters were added to the vehicle, along with shock absorbers for the non-retractable landing legs, and quick-disconnect connections for umbilicals. Raptor SN4 was installed in early June for fit checks, but the first test flight that is not tethered was expected to fly with Raptor SN5, until it suffered damage during testing at SpaceX Rocket Development and Test Facility, in McGregor, Texas. Subsequently, Raptor SN6 was the engine used by Starhopper for its untethered flights.
By December 2018, initial construction of two high-altitude prototype ships had begun, referred to as Mk1 at Boca Chica, Texas, and Mk2 at the space coast of Florida in Cocoa. Planned for high-altitude and high-velocity testing, the prototypes were described to be taller than the Starhopper, have thicker skins, and a smoothly curving nose section. Both prototypes measured 9 m (30 ft) in diameter by approximately 50 m (160 ft) in height.
On 20 November 2019, the Starship Mk1 was partially destroyed during max pressure tank testing, when the forward LOX tank ruptured along a weld line of the craft's steel structure, propelling the bulkhead several meters upwards. The upper bulkhead went airborne and landed some distance away from the craft. No injuries were reported. In a statement concerning the test anomaly, SpaceX said they will retire the Mk1 and Mk2 prototypes after the incident, and focus on Mk3 and Mk4 designs, which are closer to the flight specifications.
Construction had begun on the Mk2 Starship in Florida by mid-October 2019, but work then ceased in Florida (with apparent cancellation of Mk2) and focused on the Texas site. The prototype in Texas (Mk3) was renamed to SN1 (serial number 1). It was destroyed during a pressure test on 28 February 2020. After this incident, SpaceX announced they would focus on the next prototype, the Starship SN2. SN2 successfully went through a pressure and cryo test, but was not used for a static fire or hop. Instead, SpaceX moved on to SN3, the next prototype. SN3's cryo test then failed, the result being the LOX (Liquid Oxygen) Tank collapsing due to underpressurisation. On 26 April 2020, SN4 successfully completed a cryogenic pressure test. On 29 May 2020, SN4 exploded after engine testing.
The Starhopper was used to flight test a number of subsystems of the Starship and to begin to expand the flight envelope as the Starship design is iterated. Initial tests began in March 2019. All test flights of the Starhopper were at low altitude. On 3 April 2019, SpaceX conducted a successful static fire test in Texas of its Starhopper vehicle, which ignited the engine while the vehicle remained tethered to the ground.
The first static fire test of the Starhopper, with a single Raptor engine attached, occurred on 3 April 2019. The firing was a few seconds in duration, and was classed as successful by SpaceX. A second tethered test followed just two days later, on 5 April 2019.
By May 2019, SpaceX was planning to conduct flight tests both in South Texas and on the Florida space coast. The FAA issued a one-year experimental permit in June 2019 to fly Starhopper at Boca Chica, including pre-flight and post-flight ground operations.
The maiden flight test of the Starhopper test vehicle, and also the maiden flight test of any full-flow staged combustion rocket engine ever, was on 25 July 2019, and attained a height of 18 m (59 ft). This was not a full-duration burn but a 22-second test, and it accidentally set fire to nearby vegetation. SpaceX is developing their next-generation rocket to be reusable from the beginning, just like an aircraft, and thus needs to start with narrow flight test objectives, while still aiming to land the rocket successfully to be used subsequently in further tests to expand the flight envelope. The second and final untethered test flight of the Starhopper test article was carried out on 27 August 2019, to a VTVL altitude of 150 m (490 ft).
On 4 August 2020, prototype SN5 with full-width propellant tanks and a single Raptor engine, conducted a test flight to a height of about 150 metres (490 ft), descending to a nearby landing pad.
|Flight No.||Date and time (UTC)||Vehicle||Launch site||Suborbital apogee||Outcome||Duration|
|1||5 April 2019||Starhopper||Boca Chica, Texas||~ 1 m (3 ft)||Success|
|Tethered hop which hit tethered limits. With a single Raptor SN2 engine.|
|2||25 July 2019||Starhopper||Boca Chica, Texas||20 m (66 ft)||Success||~ 22 seconds|
|First free flight test. Single Raptor engine, SN6. Was previously scheduled for the day before but was aborted. A test flight attempt on 24 July was scrubbed.|
|3||27 August 2019
|Starhopper||Boca Chica, Texas||150 m (490 ft)||Success||~ 57 seconds|
|Single Raptor SN6 engine. SpaceX called this the "150 meter Starhopper Test" on their livestream. Starhopper was retired after this launch, with some parts being reused for other tests. The test flight attempt on 26 August was scrubbed due to a problem with the Raptor engine igniters.|
|4||4 August 2020
|SN5||Boca Chica, Texas||150 m (490 ft)||Success||~ 45 seconds|
|Single Raptor SN27 engine. A successful static fire test was carried out on 30 July 2020. Following 2 separate aborted attempts, a successful 150-meter flight was completed on 4 August..|
|5||TBD||TBD||Boca Chica, Texas||TBD||Planned|
|Elon Musk states that "We’ll do several short hops to smooth out launch process, then go high altitude with body flaps." |
Starship is intended to become the primary SpaceX orbital vehicle, as SpaceX has announced it intends to eventually replace its existing Falcon 9 launch vehicle and SpaceX Dragon 2 fleet with Starship, which is expected to take cargo to orbit at far lower cost than any other existing launch vehicle, whether from SpaceX or other launch service provider.:24:50–27:05 In November 2019, Elon Musk estimated that fuel will cost US$900,000 per launch and total launch costs could drop as low as US$2 million.
Starship is an architecture designed to do many diverse spaceflight missions, principally due to the very low marginal cost per mission that the fully-reusable spaceflight vehicles bring to spaceflight technology that were absent in the first six decades after humans put technology into space.:30:10–31:30 Specifically, Starship is designed to be used for:
In 2017, SpaceX mentioned the theoretical ability of using a boosted Starship to carry passengers on suborbital flights between two points on Earth in under one hour, providing commercial long-haul transport on Earth, competing with long-range aircraft. SpaceX however announced no concrete plans to pursue the two stage "Earth-to-Earth" use case. Over two years later, in May 2019, Musk floated the idea of using single-stage Starship to travel up to 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) on Earth-to-Earth flights at speeds approaching Mach 20 (25,000 km/h; 15,000 mph) with an acceptable payload saying it "dramatically improves cost, complexity & ease of operations". In June 2020, Musk estimated that Earth-to-Earth test flights could begin in "2 or 3 years", i.e. 2022 or 2023, and that planning was underway for "floating superheavy-class spaceports for Mars, Moon and hypersonic travel around Earth".
SpaceX has been developing the Starship with private funding, including the Raptor rocket engine used on both stages of the vehicle, since 2012. In 2020, SpaceX has contracted with NASA to do limited early design work for 10 months on a human lunar lander variant Starship — Starship HLS — that may potentially be used to land astronauts on the lunar surface as part of the NASA Artemis program after 2024.
The development work on the new two-stage launch vehicle design is privately funded by SpaceX. The entire project is possible only as a result of SpaceX's multi-faceted approach focusing on the reduction of launch costs.
The full build-out of the Mars colonization plans was envisioned by Musk in 2016 to be funded by both private and public funds. The speed of commercially available Mars transport for both cargo and humans will be driven, in large part, by market demand as well as constrained by the technology development and development funding.
Elon Musk said that there is no expectation of receiving NASA contracts for any of the ITS system work SpaceX was doing. He also indicated that such contracts, if received, would be good.
In 2017, the company settled on a 9 meter diameter design and commenced procuring equipment for vehicle manufacturing operations. In late 2018, they switched the design from carbon composite materials for the main structures to stainless steel, further lowering build costs. By late 2019, SpaceX projected that, with company private investment funding, including contractual funds from Yusaku Maezawa who had recently contracted for a private lunar mission in 2023, they have sufficient funds to advance the Earth-orbit and lunar-orbit extent of flight operations, although they may raise additional funds in order "to go to the Moon or landing on Mars".
In April 2020, NASA announced they would pay SpaceX US$135 million for design and initial development over a 10-month design period for a variation of the Starship second-stage vehicle and spaceship — a "Starship Human Landing System", or Starship HLS — as a Lunar human landing system for the NASA Artemis program; NASA is paying US$579 million and US$253 million to other contractors developing competing lunar landing designs.
The Starship vehicle has been criticized for not adequately protecting astronauts from ionizing radiation on Mars missions; Musk has stated that he thinks the transit time to Mars will be too brief to lead to an increased risk of cancer, saying "it's not too big of a deal".
Musk tackles the hardest engineering problems first. For Mars, there will be so many logistical things to make it all work, from power on the surface to scratching out a living to adapting to its extreme climate. But Musk believes that the initial, hardest step is building a reusable, orbital Starship to get people and tons of stuff to Mars. So he is focused on that.
Starship is the spaceship/upper stage and Super Heavy is the rocket booster needed to escape Earth's deep gravity well (not needed for other planets or moons)
While the names of the vehicles have changed numerous times over the years, the spacecraft is currently called Starship with its first stage booster called Super Heavy.
SpaceX's Starship system represents a fully reusable transportation system designed to service Earth orbit needs as well as missions to the Moon and Mars. This two-stage vehicle — composed of the Super Heavy rocket (booster) and Starship (spacecraft)
The new rocket is still known as the BFR, a euphemism for 'Big (fill-in-the-blank) Rocket'. The reusable BFR will use 31 Raptor engines burning densified, or super-cooled, liquid methane and liquid oxygen to lift 150 tons, or 300,000 pounds, to low Earth orbit, roughly equivalent to NASA's Saturn V Moon rocket.
SpaceX would build a huge rocket: the BFR, or Big Falcon Rocket — or, more crudely among staff, the Big Fucking Rocket
[Musk wrote,] "The flight engine design is much lighter and tighter, and is extremely focused on reliability".
Vehicle is designed to be able to land at the Earth, Moon or Mars. Depending on which ... the ratio of the energy dissipated aerodynamically vs. propulsively is quite different. In the case of the Moon, it's entirely propulsive. ... Earth: over 99.9% of the energy is removed aerodynamically ... Mars: over 99% of the energy is being removed aerodynamically at Mars.
for the terminal descent of Starship, a few tens of meters before we touch down on the lunar surface, we actually use a high-thrust RCS system, so that we don't impinge on the surface of the Moon with the high=thrust Raptor engines. ... uses the same methane and oxygen propellants as Raptor.
[The] spaceship portion of the BFR, which would transport people on point-to-point suborbital flights or on missions to the moon or Mars, will be tested on Earth first in a series of short hops. ... a full-scale Ship doing short hops of a few hundred kilometers altitude and lateral distance ... fairly easy on the vehicle, as no heat shield is needed, we can have a large amount of reserve propellant and don't need the high area ratio, deep space Raptor engines.
Construction of the first prototype spaceship is in progress. 'We're actually building that ship right now', he said. 'I think we'll probably be able to do short flights, short sort of up-and-down flights, probably sometime in the first half of next year'.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to SpaceX Starship.|