Elon Musk Takes the Long View in Glitzy Update on SpaceX’s Starship Super-Rocket

Starship and Super Heavy
SpaceX's Starship and Super Heavy booster stand tall on the Starbase launch pad in Texas. Source: SpaceX via YouTube

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk delivered a long-awaited, live-streamed update on his plans for launching the world’s most powerful rocket, with the spotlighted backdrop of a freshly stacked Starship and Super Heavy booster standing on the launch pad at the company’s Starbase facility in South Texas.

The Starship project is key to Musk’s plans to send thousands of settlers to Mars and make humanity a multiplanet species. It’s also key to his plans to put thousands of satellites in Earth orbit for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband network, which is supposed to bring in the money needed for Mars missions.

And as if all that’s not enough, Musk expects Starship to revolutionize space travel and society in ways that can’t be foreseen. “When you have an utterly profound breakthrough, the use cases will be hard to imagine,” he told hundreds of attendees during the Feb. 10 presentation at the Boca Chica base.

Musk exhibited his trademark optimism about the launch system’s development schedule, saying that the Federal Aviation Administration could give its go-ahead for the first Starship orbital launch from Texas as soon as next month. But he said there was a Plan B in case that approval didn’t come soon.

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SpaceX is Hoping to Turn Atmospheric CO2 Into Rocket Fuel

Earth is in the midst of a climate crisis. Thanks to the way CO2 emissions have been rising rapidly since the early 20th century, global temperatures are rising, triggering a positive feedback cycle that threatens to make it worse. According to recent analyses, even if the industrialized nations agree to slash carbon emissions drastically, global warming will not begin to slow until mid-century. For this reason, emission reduction needs to be paired with carbon capture to ensure we avoid the worst-case scenarios.

Meanwhile, there is a significant outcry from the public concerning commercial space. Whereas advocates like Elon Musk argue that increasing access to space is key to our long-term survival, critics and detractors respond by stating that commercial space “steals focus” from Earth’s problems and that rocket launches produce excessive carbon emissions. In what could be a response to these challenges, Musk recently announced that SpaceX would be starting a carbon capture (CC) program to create propellants for his rockets.

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Elon Musk Shows us What’s Inside the Starship

Credit: SpaceX

On Saturday, Sept.28th, Elon Musk stood before a crowd at SpaceX’s testing facility in Boca Chica, Texas. To the SpaceX employees, guests and reporters assembled (and the millions watching the live stream) Musk presented the fully-assembled Starship Mk.1 prototype. Musk also used the occasion, which also marked the seventeenth anniversary for SpaceX, to celebrate company milestones and update the world on the latest design of the finished Starship.

Once operational, this vehicle will fulfill Musk’s promise of conducting commercial flights to orbit, the Moon, and Mars and even the creation of off-world bases. And to give us a taste of what that would be like, Musk recently posted a video on Twitter of what the inside of the Mk.1‘s cargo bay looks like. Once operational, these bays will be where payloads and passengers destined for the Moon and Mars will stay.

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Elon Musks Says that his Next Starship Could be Twice as Big

Credit: SpaceX

The past week has been pretty eventful for SpaceX. On Tuesday (Aug. 27th) at 05:00 PM local time (03:00 PST; 06:00 EST), the company conducted its second free-flight test of the Starship Hopper, which saw the test vehicle successfully ascend to 150 m (~500 ft) above the ground and then land in a different spot. This test brings SpaceX one step closer to orbital tests with their full-scale prototypes of the Starship.

But it was what came shortly after this successful test that has people buzzing right now. On Twitter, as Musk was sharing drone footage of the test, he mused about how big SpaceX’s next super-heavy launch system would be. According to Musk, the next-generation system (Starship 2.0, if you will) will be twice as large as the vehicle that is poised to send humans and cargo to the Moon and to Mars.

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Why Build Big Rockets at All? It’s Time for Orbital Refueling

Stainless Steel Starship on the Moon. Credit: SpaceX

On Tuesday, July 30th, NASA announced 19 different partnerships with 13 different companies to use their expertise to help them develop space technologies, from advanced communications systems to new methods of entry, descent and landing.

Instead of contracting out specific projects, NASA will make its employees, facilities, hardware and software available to these companies, for free.

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The Starhops Have Begun!

SpaceX's first detailed render of the Starship reentering Earth's atmosphere. Credit: SpaceX

According to Elon Musk, SpaceX’s Starship Hopper just completed its inaugural hop test at the company’s South Texas Launch Site. As the first of many, this test is intended to validate the sophisticated Raptor engines that will be used aboard the full-scale Starship spacecraft, which is intrinsic to Musks’ long-term vision of providing intercontinental flights and making commercial trips to the Moon and Mars.

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SpaceX Releases a New Render of What the All-Steel Starship Will Look Like Returning to Earth

SpaceX's first detailed render of the Starship reentering Earth's atmosphere. Credit: SpaceX

The design for SpaceX’s Starship (aka. Big Falcon Rocket) is really starting to come together! Over the holidays, sections of the Starship Hopper (a miniature version of the Starship) were photographed being put together at the company’s South Texas Launch Site. By mid-January, the parts were fully-integrated, forming the body of the stainless-steel prototype that would test the spacecraft’s overall architecture.

What followed, earlier this month, were tests of the Starship’s hexagonal heat shields to determine if they would offer sufficient protection during re-entry. And now, in anticipation of the spacecraft’s eventual launch, SpaceX released an eye-popping new rendering of the Starship that shows what it would look like reentering Earth’s atmosphere.

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SpaceX Tests the Starship’s Hexagonal Heatshield. Starhopper Tests Could Come as Early as This Week

A December 2019 photo showing the nosecone (left) and the tank section (right). Image Credit: SpaceX/Elon Musk
A December 2019 photo showing the nosecone (left) and the tank section (right). Image Credit: SpaceX/Elon Musk

The milestones just keep coming for SpaceX. After the recent successful test flight of the Crew Dragon capsule, another of SpaceX’s ventures is about to meet its own milestone. The SpaceX Starhopper could have its first test flight as soon as this week.

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