What Elon Musk Did and Didn’t Say About SpaceX’s Starship Rocket

On an outdoor stage in South Texas between screens with polished computer animation and a real gigantic shiny rocket behind it, Elon Musk provided his latest update on his dreams of sending people to settle on Mars on Thursday evening.

But when Mr. Musk’s presentation was vivid in detailing his vision of the interplanetary future of humanity, he was more attentive to the operational details of the giant SpaceX rocket starship which is central to him and other goals. Numerous technical and regulatory hurdles must be overcome before the spacecraft can fly into orbit, or fulfill a multi-billion dollar agreement to allow NASA astronauts to land on the moon, let the red planet colonize.

But on stage Thursday night, Mr. Musk said he thought the starship would be able to establish a self-sufficient city on Mars, which he said would require a million tons of material to be taken there from Earth.

“This is the first point in the Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history that has become possible,” he said. Kasturi said. “We need to seize the opportunity and do it as quickly as possible. I want to say clearly: culture is feeling a bit fragile these days.

After the animated video of the fictional Mars colony served by SpaceX vehicles, Mr. Kasturi shouted, “Let’s make it real!”

For many years, SpaceX has been working on the Starship, which will be the most powerful rocket ever. It, too, will be completely reusable, unlike any previous rocket. It has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of sending payloads into orbit – less than $ 10 million to carry 100 tons into space – and that could be possible in a few years, Mr. Kasturi said.

Over the past few years, SpaceX has conducted a series of test flights to the top of the spacecraft that are to go into orbit and then return, showing how it can belly-flop in the atmosphere and then land. One flight was successful in May 2021 while the other ended in explosions. To reach orbit, it is necessary to use a larger booster stage, known as a super heavy, with dozens of engines. Which has not yet been tested.

Mr. However, Musk regularly made schedule predictions that were very optimistic. When he first talked about his Mars rocket in 2016 – then an even bigger design – he said that the first test voyage to Mars, without a public ride, would begin in 2022, and the first people to go to Mars would leave two years later. .

When Mr. Musk updated in September 2019, predicting that the first orbital flight would arrive in six months.

But with 2022 already here, SpaceX has yet to attempt an orbital launch of Starship.

In Thursday’s conversation, he expressed confidence that this would happen this year, but remained unclear about the details.

His conversation on the site, which calls SpaceX Starbucks in Boca Chika, Texas, near Brownsville, was mixed with a variety of absurd comments while retrieving much of the vision he described in the past, including his arguments about why humanity needs to expand beyond Earth. A backup plan for the survival of mankind.

He also responded to critics who say space is a waste of time and money, noting how little of the federal budget is actually directed to spaceflight and research.

Mr. Musk said, referring to the budget for space.

He mixed technical details about the company’s upgrades to the next version of the engine used for Starship. Mr Musk described the intense heat generated by the engine. “It’s very difficult to just melt the chamber,” Mr. Musk continued. “It simply came to our notice then. But I think we are very close to solving it. “

He hoped that an environmental review by the Federal Aviation Administration would soon proceed to try to launch SpaceX from Boka Chika into orbit. Mr. Kasturi said.

If that happens, an orbital launch attempt could be made in “two months” or possibly May, he said.

But he also acknowledged that if the FAA decides that a more comprehensive environmental review is needed, SpaceX will shift the launch to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, causing a six to eight month delay in modifying the launch pad there. Huge starship.

In addition to the final trips to Mars, the starship will be used by NASA to take astronauts from orbit around the moon to the surface of the moon. The company won a 2.9 billion contract for the mission, competing with other bidders, including Blue Origin, a rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Defense Contractor Dynamics. On paper the lunar landing is scheduled for 2025, but is expected to be delayed. In addition to working on the starship, astronauts need a space launch system to return to the moon, the second largest rocket under development by NASA that is also behind schedule.

For lunar missions, SpaceX must also be able to refill the starship’s propellant tank while in orbit around the Earth. Mr. Musk said a series of starship tankers would be launched every few hours, carrying propellants for lunar-determined rockets.

Mr. Musk said he has not seen a conflict between NASA’s work and his big dreams.

“We’re going to build a lot of ships, a lot of boosters,” he said. “Adding feet to land on the moon, it can happen very quickly.”

And Mr. Musk was confident his giant rocket would work. Although there will be mostly bumps along the way, he said, “We’ll get it done.”

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