There’s more than one way to go back to the moon

Proponents of SpaceX argue that four to six Falcon Heavy launches, at a cost of $150-200 million per launch, could get the material into orbit, where it …

Mark Whittington’s Jan. 4 op-ed ( “NASA wants to go back to the Moon the hard way”) questioned NASA’s strategy of building an orbiting lunar space station before establishing a base on the Moon’s surface. His piece concludes with a broad swipe at NASA’s Space Launch System, currently under development, and advocating cancellation of the project in favor of commercial launch providers.

Doing so at this time would put the United States at serious risk of failing to meet its stated objectives in both manned and unmanned space exploration, precisely at a time when other nations are undertaking bold new initiatives in space.

Critics of the SLS have focused on its sticker price and a price-per-pound comparison relative to reusable rockets. As former senator and astronaut Harrison Schmitt noted last year, that argument fails to consider the real requirements of a deep space mission.

Ambitious and meaningful missions to the Moon and farther into space will require significant infrastructure. Proponents of SpaceX argue that four to six Falcon Heavy launches, at a cost of $150-200 million per launch, could get the material into orbit, where it could be assembled and then propelled to the final destination. This adds complexity and risk. The total cost for those multiple launches is $600 million to $1.2 billion. Meanwhile, the single SLS Block IB launch could carry all that material to the final destination for $500 million to $1 billion.

We should also note that NASA’s Orion spacecraft has the fuel capacity and systems redundancy necessary to support a mission to the Moon and beyond and the SLS is the only rocket capable of launching Orion. SpaceX’s Dragon is lighter and could be launched on a Falcon Heavy, but the Dragon is not capable of long-duration missions.

Critics of the SLS have also claimed that Falcon Heavy could send two unmanned spacecraft to outer planets for the price of a single SLS-based mission. What is not stated is that these spacecraft would have to be lighter (and less capable) or would have to use gravity-assist maneuvers to propel them to their targets. This can add as many as seven years to the time needed to get a spacecraft into position to begin its science mission. SLS can loft a large unmanned probe directly to Jupiter or Saturn without the need for gravity assist.

Finally, Whittington argues that the SLS will fly only a few times before privately funded launch vehicles render it “obsolete.” However, his timelines assume that SpaceX and Blue Origin remain on schedule and on plan — and that’s a big “if.” Private launch providers are subject to the same technical challenges, delays, and unanticipated cost increases as NASA. For example, SpaceX announced that the Falcon Heavy would fly in 2013. Then, the launch date slipped to spring 2016, then late 2016. Then, it was 2017. The first (and, to date, only) Falcon Heavy launch was February 2018. The delays in developing the Falcon Heavy led to it being outdated before it ever flew. The day before Falcon Heavy’s first flight, SpaceX announced that it would not attempt to certify the Heavy for human spaceflight.

SpaceX still has yet to man-rate its Crewed Dragon spacecraft and the current-generation Falcon 9 rocket. Meanwhile, the company’s website still headlines an article announcing that SpaceX would send a privately crewed Dragon beyond the Moon in 2018. It made for great press, but obviously, the company did not deliver on that bold announcement. This mission might not fly until after SLS is operational.

Finally, we need multiple launch providers. As former astronaut Thomas Jones notes, NASA must appoint a presidential commission to investigate any failure involving a space vehicle carrying humans under federal contract. Even if the crew is unharmed, the investigation and corrective actions could ground a launch vehicle for years. That happened with the Space Shuttle after the Challenger and Columbia accidents. We simply can’t rely on a sole provider.

Visionaries like Elon Musk challenge the status quo and inspire the public to support spaceflight. But we also need reliable and sustainable launch services to propel us into the next phase of space exploration. Canceling SLS before any other launch providers have demonstrated equivalent capabilities would be irresponsible.

Jonathan Ward is a space historian and co-author of Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew.

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SpaceX Starship test rocket is straight out of a retro sci-fi movie

Elon Musk showed how SpaceX Starship test rocket looks like. Well, it looks like something that has come out of a retro sci-fi movie. SpaceX CEO Elon …

Elon Musk showed how SpaceX Starship test rocket looks like. Well, it looks like something that has come out of a retro sci-fi movie.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk offered the glimpse of the company’s Starship test flight rocket on January 11. The rocket is dubbed the “Hopper”. Elon Musk took to Twitter and wrote about Starship test rocket as well.

“Starship test flight rocket just finished assembly at the @SpaceX Texas launch site. This is an actual picture, not a rendering,” Musk tweeted, while posting an image of the vehicle on Thursday (January 11).

Starship test flight rocket just finished assembly at the @SpaceX Texas launch site. This is an actual picture, not a rendering. pic.twitter.com/k1HkueoXaz

Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 11, 2019

Twitter user Evelyn Arevalo shared a video on Twitter and wrote, “SpaceX first Starship Hopper under Texas Boca Chica Beach’s cloudy sky.”

SpaceX first Starship hopper under Texas Boca Chica Beach’s cloudy sky.@elonmusk#Starship#SpaceXpic.twitter.com/hVg5Ken7Vp

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo (@JaneidyEve) January 10, 2019

Now you must be wondering where did this Starship rocket come from. The Starship vehicle was formerly known as the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR).

Straship rocket is a fully reusable vehicle designed to take humans and supplies to Mars and also to dramatically cut travel time within Earth, according to an IANS report.

This two-stage vehicle — composed of a Booster and a Ship — is designed to eventually replace the company’s Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and the Dragon spacecraft.

Starship is fundamental in making system affordable | Render photo from SpaceX’s website

It is designed to service all Earth orbit needs as well as the Moon and Mars.

IANS reported that the Starship Hopper that Musk showcased will do suborbital vertical flight tests similar to the Falcon 9 Hopper back in 2013.

“Orbital version is taller, has thicker skins (won’t wrinkle) & a smoothly curving nose section,” he added.

According to reports on the internet, Musk said that the company should have its first orbital prototype by June this year.

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Elon Musk unveils assembled SpaceX Starship and it’s glorious

Elon Musk and SpaceX’s ambitious plans to reach around the moon and all the way to Mars require a big effin’ rocket. Now we know what it looks like.
starshipEnlarge Image

The SpaceX Starship prototype is now assembled.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk and SpaceX’s ambitious plans to reach around the moon and all the way to Mars require a big effin’ rocket. Now we know what it looks like.

Musk tweeted out an image on Thursday of an assembled early version of the SpaceX Starship, which was once known in polite company as the Big Falcon Rocket.

Starship test flight rocket just finished assembly at the @SpaceX Texas launch site. This is an actual picture, not a rendering. pic.twitter.com/k1HkueoXaz

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 11, 2019

“Starship test flight rocket just finished assembly at the @SpaceX Texas launch site. This is an actual picture, not a rendering,” Musk wrote.

He first teased us in December with an image of the prototype rocket under construction.

The assembled version looks like a stainless-steel Airstream trailer mated with a space shuttle. A person or mannequin in a spacesuit stands nearby to give us a sense of scale. Starship is a monster.

Musk dropped a few more details about the prototype: “This is for suborbital VTOL tests. Orbital version is taller, has thicker skins (won’t wrinkle) & a smoothly curving nose section.” VTOL stands for “vertical take-off and landing.” Musk says the body diameter of Starship is about 30 feet (9 meters).

The SpaceX founder also retweeted a video taken by Twitter user Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo showing the rocket as seen out of a car window driving by.

SpaceX first Starship hopper under Texas Boca Chica Beach’s cloudy sky.@elonmusk#Starship#SpaceXpic.twitter.com/hVg5Ken7Vp

— Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo (@JaneidyEve) January 10, 2019

Musk says the first Starship orbital prototype should be done around June. The current version will be used for short “hopper” flights that send it up and then bring it back down to test launch and landing systems.

The entrepreneur has big plans for Starship. SpaceX already sold out a voyage around the moon with a hoped-for launch date in 2023. It will be interesting to follow along as Starship moves toward actual space travel.

CES 2019: See all of CNET’s coverage of the year’s biggest tech show.

CES schedule: It’s six days of jam-packed events. Here’s what to expect.

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Elon Musk says SpaceX is building a stainless-steel rocket ship in Texas that will ‘look like liquid …

On Saturday, Elon Musk shared an eye-catching picture of a stainless-steel rocket ship gleaming in the Texas sun. The futuristic image is not a photo …

On Saturday, Elon Musk shared an eye-catching picture of a stainless-steel rocket ship gleaming in the Texas sun.

The futuristic image is not a photo but rather a rendering created by SpaceX, Musk’s rocket company. However, his company is working quickly to build a real-life prototype of the vehicle in southern Texas.

Musk and Gwynne Shotwell, the president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, call the ship the “test hopper” because it’s not designed to launch into orbit around Earth. Instead, the somewhat crude and windowless ship will rocket on “hops” that go no more than about 16,400 feet in the air, according to Federal Communications Commission documents.

It’s a critical experimental vehicle whose successes (or failures) will inform how SpaceX works toward a full-scale, orbit-ready prototype of Starship: a roughly 18-story spaceship designed to one day ferry up to 100 people and 150 tons of cargo to Mars.

“Starship test vehicle under assembly will look similar to this illustration when finished,” Musk tweeted on Saturday, sharing the image below. “Operational Starships would [obviously] have windows, etc.”

A rendering of SpaceX’s stainless-steel Starship test hopper.
Elon Musk/SpaceX via Twitter

A full-scale Starship is scheduled to launch people for the first time in 2023. That mission is being bankrolled for an undisclosed sum by the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who plans to pick eight artists as crew members for a flight around the moon.

Musk has said he hopes to launch the first crews to Mars in the mid-2020s, perhaps as early as 2024, to arrive at the red planet in 2025.

The evolution of Musk and SpaceX’s ‘Tintin’ test ship

Musk and Shotwell previously said the test hopper wouldn’t make its first flight until late 2019.

But when asked Saturday on Twitter about the test hopper’s first flight, Musk said SpaceX was “aiming for 4 weeks, which probably means 8 weeks, due to unforeseen issues.”

Either way, that’s a major jump in the launch schedule — one that coincides with a recent influx of half a billion dollars.

Read more: Elon Musk said SpaceX is on track to launch people to Mars within 6 years — here’s the full timeline of his plans to colonize the red planet

Musk announced in late December that SpaceX was indeed building the test hopper at its lesser-known launch site in Boca Chica, at the southernmost tip of Texas.

He also released a photo of the test hopper coming together:

Sections of SpaceX’s Starship hopper coming together at the rocket company’s launch site in Boca Chica, Texas.
Elon Musk/SpaceX via Twitter

Musk’s confirmation and picture came after a flurry of photos appeared in the forums of NASASpaceFlight.com, where some dedicated followers of SpaceX congregate to chat about the rocket company’s latest activities and share information.

The photos, taken by locals in Boca Chica, appeared to show the mythical test hopper being constructed nearly a year ahead of schedule. Musk later said the main parts were being made in Los Angeles and shipped to the semi-remote site for assembly.

Read more: Where SpaceX’s most important locations are and what they do

The latest batch of local images shows workers and cranes assembling sections of the test hopper in plain sight of an access road.

The vehicle doesn’t yet have a seamless, mirrorlike finish, as Musk’s rendering suggests it might. (There are ridges between the steel panels.) But it’s not supposed to look perfect. In fact, there is a decent chance that it fails or explodes, as is common during early test launches and has happened to many early SpaceX creations.

Musk has described Starship as a “Tintin” rocket, referring to the famous 20th-century Belgian comics series (which features a two-part space-exploration story).

“I love the ‘Tintin’ rocket design, so I kind of wanted to bias it towards that,” he said during a press conference in September. “If in doubt, go with ‘Tintin.'”

From carbon fiber to stainless steel that looks like ‘liquid silver’

An illustration of the SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, launching into space. Here, the spaceship is detaching from the booster.
SpaceX

The choice of polished stainless steel is a major shift from what Musk called his “final iteration” of the rocket’s design.

In September, Musk revealed design updates for his two-part Mars launch system, called the Big Falcon Rocket. The Starship that Musk unveiled then was set to be about 30 feet wide and 180 feet tall, and sit atop a roughly 219-foot-tall rocket booster that Musk now calls Super Heavy. Both parts were supposed to be made primarily of carbon-fiber composites, which can be much lighter yet many times as strong as steel alloys.

Experts in materials science and aerospace interviewed by Business Insider expressed some reservations about the choice of carbon fiber for the spaceship, given the punishing environment of space and the difficulty in repairing carbon-fiber parts on Earth, let alone in space or on another planet.

Super Heavy may yet be built mostly out of carbon fiber, since it won’t reach orbit and will instead land back on or near its launchpad for reuse. But it appears Musk and his engineering team are now committed to using a stainless-steel alloy to make Starship.

Musk said SpaceX’s newly developed Raptor engines, which will power the vehicle, would be made of an in-house “superalloy” called SX500. He has also suggested that the final steel body of Starship will “look like liquid silver” and act as its own heat sink — most likely without protective thermal tiles, as NASA’s space shuttle used — during the blazing-hot reentry into Earth’s or Mars’ atmosphere.

“I will do a full technical presentation of Starship after the test vehicle we’re building in Texas flies, so hopefully March/April,” Musk tweeted on December 22.

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Elon Musk Unveils The Final Look Of The SpaceX Starship

Elon Musk has released a teaser of the SpaceX Starship, and many are intrigued and trying to take the perfect picture of yet another marvel from …
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Elon Musk renamed the great futurerocket from the Big Falcon Rocket – BFR – to Starship. The spacecraft was underconstruction back then at the port of Los Angeles and was reported to cost $5billion. It was also believed that the rocket would be able to carry hundredsof passengers or store hundreds of tons of cargo to Mars and back.

The SpaceX Starship

Elon Musk has released a teaser ofthe SpaceX Starship, and many are intrigued and trying to take the perfectpicture of yet another marvel from SpaceX. The Starship test vehicle hassurprised people, and they are left wondering that if this test vehicle is suchan amazing piece of art, just how remarkable will the spacecraft be once it iscompleted.

Check Out The Final Look Of The SpaceX Starship

As of now, it is being assembled atits launch facility of Boca Chica, Texas. According to various sources, thereal thing is supposed to be much better when compared with this prototype. TheStarship test vehicle is quite a sight to watch, however; it doesn’t featurewindows and is actually shorter than the actual production ship.

The company has plans of using thisprototype as its first launch vehicle. As per the tweet by Elon Must, ‘Starshiptest vehicle under assembly will look similar to this illustration whenfinished. Operational Starships would obv have windows, etc.”

Starship test vehicle under assembly will look similar to this illustration when finished. Operational Starships would obv have windows, etc. pic.twitter.com/D8AJ01mjyR

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 5, 2019

He also went on to share a mock-upphoto of the Starship test vehicle in his tweet. He intends to carry outtesting of Starship hopper within the next four weeks and also told that theprimary hopper engine is most likely to fire next month as well.

The Reaction Of The Fans

The Musk fans took to Twitter forsharing their excitement on the latest development that has been put forward bySpaceX in the form of Starship.

#BocaChicaTEXAS sunrise this morning. #BFSBuild#FogTweet ?: Maria Pointer pic.twitter.com/WB5cUCZZtI

— Cowboy Dan (@CowboyDanPaasch) January 5, 2019

Cowboy Dan has shared a beautifulphoto of the spacecraft during sunrise. Another fan named ‘Chesley Bonestell: ABrush With The Future’ also suggested a different name to Musk; ‘The StarshipBonestell’ or ‘The Chesley.’

Check Out The Final Look Of The SpaceX Starship

This recent development has rendered the fans quite excited in the hopes of what is to come. It is being said that the final design will be even better than the prototype. What’s more is that the final spacecraft will have a width of 30 feet and will be much taller than the prototype.

If all goes well, testing isscheduled to begin in March 2019. We have our fingers crossed to see whatSpaceX has in store for us!

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