The look may not inspire much confidence, but these are just the first images of the company’s most audacious project SpaceX: O Starship is a rocket that the Elon Musk is developing to take the first humans to the Moon and Mars.
Identified as Starship Mk1, this first prototype was presented last Saturday (28) by Elon Musk himself at SpaceX’s facilities in Boca Chica Village, Texas.
As always, the eccentric businessman made quite optimistic predictions about the project: Musk’s expectation is that the rocket will enter orbit for the first time in six months.
This is a huge challenge, but at least the project has reached an advanced stage of development. It could: the Starship Mk1 is an evolution of the Starhopper, a prototype that SpaceX developed to test several characteristics of the future rocket, mainly the Raptor engines.
The Starhopper completed its second launch test at the end of August by reaching, as planned, a height of 150 m and returning to the ground without incident (the first test was carried out in July, but the rocket reached a height of only 18 m) :
With a structure approximately 50 meters high and 9 m in diameter, the Starship Mk1 is much larger than the Starhopper. The newly presented rocket has three Raptor engines, although the final version is expected to have six.
If plans are followed to the letter, Starship Mk1 will carry out its first flight tests by the end of the year. Musk’s plan is to make the rocket reach an altitude of 65,000 feet (about 20 km) and then return to base.
Despite Musk’s promises, what draws attention in the Starship Mk1 is the design: the prototype has a look that gives it an aspect of amateurism or low-budget film rocket.
But Musk himself explains that the design and other parameters will be improved in the next versions. Scheduled for completion next year, the Starship Mk3 and Mk4 prototypes should be thinner, faster and cheaper, exemplifies the entrepreneur.
To give you an idea, Musk says that the final version of the Starship should weigh around 120 tons – the current Starship Mk1 weighs around 200 tons.
Yes, there is also a Starship Mk2. This prototype is being built in Cape Canaveral, Florida, by a different team than the one working with the Mk1. Both projects are part of a kind of internal SpaceX competition that aims to speed up not only the aircraft optimization works, but also the production ones.
The next steps are the construction of the Mk3 and Mk4 prototypes. The first project will be taken over by the base in Boca Chica as early as next month. The second will be performed by the Cape Canaveral team shortly thereafter.
Starship Super Heavy
The Starship is not the complete aircraft, but part of the project Starship Super Heavy (formerly called the Big Falcon Rocket). In it, the Starship corresponds to the second stage. The first, called Super Heavy, consists of the launcher.
If the current project is maintained, the Super Heavy will be a propeller almost 70 m high by 9 in diameter that will have 37 Raptor engines, in addition to capacity for up to 3,300 tons of fuel.
As the rocket’s first stage, it will be up to the Super Heavy to launch the Starship into orbit and, when disengaging from it, return to Earth.
The Starship will then take its course. The aircraft is being developed to carry up to 100 people on their missions, which should include trips to the Moon and Mars.
There are still no set dates for these trips, but a customer for them SpaceX already has: last year, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa bought the right to become the company’s first space tourist to participate in a mission around the moon.
The value of the “ticket” was not disclosed, but Maezawa is said to have paid something around US $ 100 million for it.