On Saturday, September 28th, Elon Musk took the spotlight in Boca Chica, Texas, at SpaceX’s facility to reveal the company’s latest Starship prototype. SpaceX recently added a new section to its website solely dedicated to Starship, which also contains informative diagrams and details on Super Heavy, the first-stage booster that will launch Starship into orbit and beyond.
SpaceX’s Starship MK1 build and launch facility stationed in Cape County, Texas. (Image Credit: SpaceX)
According to SpaceX, Starship will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle when the prototype is fully constructed and ready to go. The 160-foot spacecraft will have a cargo capacity of over 100 metric tons to Earth orbit with a 30-foot diameter, much wider than NASA’s out of service Space Shuttle. With orbital refueling, Starship will also have the ability to carry its cargo, along with passengers, to the Moon, Mars and possibly even further.
Once the Starship is complete, it will have 1,200 metric tons of liquid methane and liquid oxygen. The top third of the rocket will be occupied by either crew members or cargo, all of which depend on how it’s configured. The bottom two-thirds will be host to the propellant and six Raptor engines, three engines will be used for atmospheric flight and the other three for propulsion in space. There are also two actuated fins located at the top of the rocket that moves to orient the rocket as it re-enters the atmosphere and lands back to Earth. Drag will also be produced from two large fins on the bottom of the rocket, which is imperative for its controlled descent. To shield the rocket from the intense heat upon re-entry into the atmosphere, Starship will be made of stainless steel, with one half of its surface coated with glass tiles.
Super Heavy will tower over Starship at a height of 223 feet, and it will have the same 30-foot diameter. It will also have a propellant capacity of 3,300 metric tons, with thrust reaching 72 meganewtons (MN). Actuated grid fins placed close to the rocket’s head will be used for landing control, similar to the ones found on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 boosters. 37 Raptor engines will be contained within the larger booster and six landing legs for stability when it lands back to Earth to be used again. Super Heavy will also be made of stainless steel.
When comparing Starship to Falcon, SpaceX states that “a lower marginal cost per launch” is used when delivering satellites, and the design of its cargo hold will offer a lot of free space to carry large objects like an assembled space telescope.
It’s also designed to make continual visits to the International Space Station with resupply missions and will be able to deliver more cargo in one launch than SpaceX’s Dragon capsules. One of the more intriguing aspects of the spacecraft is that it can deliver cargo and humans to the Moon and beyond, and can return for multiple trips.
Updated specs have also been added to the Raptor engine by SpaceX, powering the Starship system. Each Raptor engine will be 10.2 feet high, 4 feet in diameter, and have a thrust of 2 MN.
SpaceX will be targeting 2020 for Starship’s orbital flight, and during the event, Musk stated that Starship should reach their goal in less than 6 months from now, while also noting that it has the potential to launch crew members into space in one year.
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