The mammoth rocket ‘Starship’ is about to be launched
The Space Flight Company in South Texas is preparing to launch a big rocket to test for multi-planet species: Musk’s proposal for the Starship mission
In South Texas, the commercial spaceflight company is getting ready to test a big rocket. The machine could one day carry humans to the moon, Mars and beyond.
A complex machine, it has many different components and is very complex, says the director of the MIT space propulsion laboratory. The rocket is larger than any ever built. Success will depend upon dozens of engines, firing in perfect synchrony.
“Eventually the Sun will expand and destroy all life,” Musk said, standing before the giant rocket about a year ago. “It is very important – essential in the long-term – that we become a multi-planet species.”
Musk hopes that by allowing large objects to be carried into the atmosphere for cheap, he will be able to become multiplanetary. He wants to bring the first people to Mars.
It seems as if investors are happy to allow Musk to try out his big rocket. If the launch fails, he says it will affect all of the company’s business and could be bad news for the current financial climate.
Standing at nearly 400 feet tall, Starship is made of gleaming stainless steel, an unusual choice in a business where every pound of weight matters. In fact, SpaceX started out looking at advanced, lightweight composites for Starship, Musk told the Space Studies Board of the National Academies in 2021. He realized that steel was cheap and very tough. It could hold cryogenic rocket fuel and tolerate the grueling heat of re-entry better than other materials.
Methane is an unconventional fuel choice for the rocket. hydrogen is lightweight and very efficient when used in high-powered rockets.
But methane does have some advantages: It is cheaper to produce and easier to handle the hydrogen, and trace amounts of methane are present in the atmosphere of Mars. That means that a future Starship mission to the red planet might be able to refuel by drawing methane from the atmosphere or another local source.
The rocket science of the Starship mission: a plan for the next generation of satellite Internet services from SpaceX and SpaceX, with an eye toward the moon
Powerful engines called Raptors are used to make up for the extra weight. The spacecraft itself uses six Raptors to fly, but the super-heavy booster that will lift it into space uses 33 of the engines, working together.
At the end of 1960s, the Soviet Union tried to get to the moon. In the first stage of the N1, 30 engines powered the big rocket. However, even a single engine failure was enough to cause the rocket to explode, and four prototypes were destroyed before the Soviets eventually abandoned the program. America had five engines for the first stage of the rocket. The reduced complexity allowed the rocket to carry astronauts to the moon.
The cheap, durable design of Starship is what Musk believes will make it a workhorse for getting things into space. Speaking last year, Musk said he hoped Starship could be reused every six to eight hours, and the booster might be reusable, in theory at least, every hour.
In the near term, it won’t be carrying interplanetary missions. Instead, SpaceX needs it to transport satellites into orbit for its satellite-based Internet service known as Starlink. Starlink is a major revenue-maker for the company and there’s been strong interest from users. But the Starlink system is limited in how many subscribers it can support, says telecoms consultant Tim Farrar.
It could take thousands of extra satellites to build a big enough system. Right now, there’s no way to launch hundreds of smaller rockets at the same time. Starship can use bigger and heavier satellites to increase profitability.
NASA is paying $2 billion to develop a version of Starship that will visit the moon, which is still several years away.
“Excitement Guaranteed” – a tweet from the SpaceX CEO Elon Musk about the space mission failure due to “frozen pressure valve”
The launch attempt was set to take place in South Texas during a 150-minute window. Just about 10 minutes before the anticipated liftoff, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in tweet that a pressure valve appeared to be frozen, meaning the mission would be untenable.
The risk seems to have been understood by the company. The company replaced the word “liftoff” in its mission timeline with the word “excitement guaranteed.”