Elon Musk visions SpaceX Starship to launch on Mars and Moon

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk teases the starship offering his vision of the spacecraft on both the Moon and Mars. The billionaire took to social media …

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk teases the starship offering his vision of the spacecraft on both the Moon and Mars.

The billionaire took to social media platform Twitter to share graphical representations of the SpaceX Starship showing the shiny SpaceX sitting on the bare ground on the Moon and Mars.

Starships on Mars pic.twitter.com/AyKEO6ATiZ

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 29, 2019

Such a vision is quite similar to the less shiny renderings that came out a couple of years ago when Musk laid out the architecture for the Starship launch system which was then known as the BFR at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia.

Last December, Musk promised to provide a full technical presentation about the Starship program once the StarHopper starts flying. His release of updated renderings could be a signal that he’s gearing up for that presentation. The fact that today’s freshened-up renderings have numbers in the upper right corner suggests the slideshow is in the works.

Starship on the moon pic.twitter.com/UGjDG8ofID

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 29, 2019

SpaceX already plans to send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and 8-10 artists of his choice on the first Starship mission around the Moon that could be expected to happen as early as 2023. But will necessarily be preceded by at least one uncrewed demonstration of Starship’s performance in deep space.

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk teases steel Starship on the Moon and Mars

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has published the first official renders of the company’s updated stainless steel Starship, offering glimpses of the spacecraft …

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has published the first official renders of the company’s updated stainless steel Starship, offering glimpses of the spacecraft on both the Moon and Mars.

Although the designs of Starship and Super Heavy (formerly BFS and BFR) have shifted significantly over the past three years, the vehicle’s primary destinations have remained stable. Above all else, SpaceX remains focused on designing its next-gen rocket to be the best spacecraft ever built for transporting huge payloads and humans to the Moon, Mars, and ultimately throughout the solar system. The interplanetary future of Starship is currently an unknown quantity but SpaceX is already building the first full-scale orbital prototype and testing multiple finished versions of the Raptor engine that will power it.

Starship on the moon pic.twitter.com/UGjDG8ofID

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 29, 2019

As discussed earlier today, SpaceX has already completed a low-fidelity prototype of Starship known as Starhopper, designed to – per its namesake – perform low-altitude, low-velocity hop tests. Powered by Raptor, Starhopper also acts as a mobile test stand for the next-gen rocket engine meant to power both Starship and its Super Heavy booster. SpaceX’s current planning has delayed a vacuum variant of the engine for several years, instead choosing to standardize the same Raptor engine across both stages of BFR. Starship will feature seven Raptor engines producing ~14,000 kN (~3.2M lbf) of thrust, while Super Heavy’s latest iteration would require a 31 Raptors and produce a staggering 62,000 kN/14M lbf of thrust at liftoff.

Starships on Mars pic.twitter.com/AyKEO6ATiZ

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 29, 2019

That performance – theoretically making Starship/Super Heavy almost two times as powerful as Saturn V – is essential to support massive missions to Mars and the Moon while also enabling complete reusability of the rocket. SpaceX rightly judged that rapid, low-effort reusability is the only way to truly revolutionize the cost of access to orbit, at least for the indefinite future. This need itself piggybacks on CEO Elon Musk’s founding motivation: to make humanity a multi-planetary species and protect it against future mass-extinction events.

Musk has long viewed the Moon as a distraction to that goal, offering very little prospect of being more than a detour, but both NASA and the political apparatus currently controlling the US have decided that a rebranded Moon return is desirable. Repeating several nearly identical Moon return proposals from the last few decades, the political powers that be have yet to actually put any money where their mouths are. SpaceX and Musk have nonetheless jumped on the bandwagon, a pragmatic decision to hedge bets in case funding actually appears. Unsurprisingly, SpaceX is interested in any opportunity to acquire federal funding for its expensive Starship/Super Heavy/Raptor development programs.

In September 2018, SpaceX announced plans to send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and 8-10 artists of his choice on the first Starship mission around the Moon. According to Musk, that could happen as early as 2023 but will necessarily be preceded by at least one uncrewed demonstration of Starship’s performance in deep space. Given the nominal reusability of Starship, the same spacecraft might perform both missions.

In the meantime, SpaceX is in the process of building the first orbital Starship prototype, although it’s unclear just how advanced the vehicle will be. Depending on how polished and successful SpaceX’s Starship Alpha (for lack of a better term) is, it’s conceivable that the spacecraft could be retrofitted or upgraded for actual demonstration missions to deep space or the Moon. To enable the long-term reusability of Starships, SpaceX will need to rely on in-orbit refueling by way of dedicated tanker launches. However, a lower-fidelity prototype that might otherwise be scrapped could be a prime candidate for a one-way Moon-impact or lunar-landing mission, reducing risk for future crewed or uncrewed Starship missions to the Moon before SpaceX has the facilities and hardware to support simultaneous Starship and tanker launches.

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SpaceX test-fires engine on massive new Starship for first time

SpaceX’s massive new spacecraft successfully test-fired its rocket engine for the first time Wednesday. The “hopper” version of the Starship rocket …

SpaceX’s massive new spacecraft successfully test-fired its rocket engine for the first time Wednesday.

The “hopper” version of the Starship rocket — dubbed Starhopper — did not leave the ground, but its powerful Raptor engine fired briefly while tethered to the ground at the SpaceX facility in south Texas.

“Starhopper completed tethered hop. All systems green,” SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday evening.

Musk delivered the good news shortly after his other company, Tesla Inc. TSLA, +2.07% , reported some bad news — first-quarter deliveries that fell far below analysts’ expectations.

The reusable Starship rocket, which has angular tail fins like something out of a comic book, can carry up to 100 people and is intended for missions to the moon, and later, Mars — and back.

More tethered and suborbital tests are expected to be carried out this year, and Musk has said the Starship could take its first orbital flight in 2020.

SpaceX fires up Starship prototype rocket for the first time in Texas

SpaceX fired up its prototype Starship rocket on Wednesday evening at the company’s facility in southern Texas, CEO Elon Musk confirmed in a tweet.

SpaceX fired up its prototype Starship rocket on Wednesday evening at the company’s facility in southern Texas, CEO Elon Musk confirmed in a tweet.

“Starhopper completed tethered hop,” Musk said in a tweet, sharing a video of the apparent test firing.

“All systems green,” he added.

Musk tweet: Starhopper completed tethered hop. All systems green.

SpaceX is in the early stages of developing its Starship rocket. Starship, with an enormous booster called “Super Heavy,” is being built to transport up to 100 people to the moon, Mars and more.

Designed to be a fully reusable launch system, the “hopper” version of Starship is key to proving the design and mechanics of a rocket that will unlock Musk’s vision of making spaceflight more like air travel.

The company is also building a next-generation series of engines for Starship, known as Raptors. The prototype Starship has one Raptor, which is the second “flight ready” version of the engine that SpaceX has tested.

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SpaceX releases new render of silver Starship reentering Earth’s atmosphere

(Web Desk) – The design for SpaceX’s Starship (aka. Big Falcon Rocket) is really starting to come together! Over the holidays, sections of the Starship …

(Web Desk) – The design for SpaceX’s Starship (aka. Big Falcon Rocket) is really starting to come together!

Over the holidays, sections of the Starship Hopper (a miniature version of the Starship) were photographed being put together at the company’s South Texas Launch Site.

By mid-January, the parts were fully-integrated, forming the body of the stainless-steel prototype that would test the spacecraft’s overall architecture.

What followed, earlier this month, were tests of the Starship’s hexagonal heat shields to determine if they would offer sufficient protection during re-entry.

And now, in anticipation of the spacecraft’s eventual launch, SpaceX released an eye-popping new rendering of the Starship that shows what it would look like reentering Earth’s atmosphere.

This is the first detailed rendering of the Starship, which was created for the cover of the April 2019 issue of Popular Mechanics.

The render was only been made available in print and through a single publication, but Teslarati managed to acquire a partial-resolution copy, which they proceeded to publish on their website for the general public to see.

The render offers a beautiful impression of how the Starship’s design will look surrounded by plasma. It also calls to mind the hexagonal-tile heat shield that will ensure the reusable spacecraft can survive repeated reentries.

According to Musk’s statement, these steel tiles will reinforce the sections of the spacecraft that experience the most heating as a result of atmospheric drag.

Artist’s impression of the Starship entering Mars’ atmosphere. Credit: SpaceX

Musk also indicated that transpiration cooling would be used, a process that involves passing a coolant through the wall of a heated surface to prevent it from eroding.

Or as Musk explained in a recent tweet, “Transpiration cooling will be added wherever we see erosion of the shield.

Starship needs to be ready to fly again immediately after landing. Zero refurbishment.”

In this case, the coolant would be some of the Starship’s own liquid methane propellant, which would be channeled through the steel skin and out through a series of tiny holes.

The liquid methane would quickly vaporize into a gas and then become plasma as it entered the spacecraft’s superheated bow shock, reducing the heat load on certain sections of the tile.

The addition of this vaporized methane would also result in a plasma “tail” that is richly colored. Essentially, the color of a plasma tail is the result of spacecraft materials interacting with super-hot plasma.

In the case of ablative shielding, this is caused by the injection of different elements into the compressed air around the ship, which are brightly-colored as a result of their particular chemical composition.

This may have been the idea behind a second image, which was also provided only to Popular Mechanics, that features a wider-angle view of the Starship entering Mars’ atmosphere.

Luckily, Reddit user WibloBaggins recently uploaded what is purported to be this image (shown below) to Reddit. As you can see, the image features the Starship creating a multi-colored plasma tail as it passes into Mars’ atmosphere.

This may or may not be an intentional representation of what the Starship’s plasma tail will look like as it enters Mars’ atmosphere. Much like carbon dioxide, methane burns blue when subjected to extreme heat – in methane’s case, temperatures above 1960 °C (3560 °F).

Since Mars’ atmosphere is predominantly composed of CO2 and methane, the depiction of a tail ranging from light blue/indigo to red/white seems highly plausible.

In any case, once it is finished testing and integrated into the design of the Starship, this heat shield will be one of few in the history of spaceflight that experiences no ablation and therefore has no need for refurbishment.

The only other spacecraft to employ similar heat shield technology was NASA’s Space Shuttle, which relied on a reusable tile shield made of insulating material.

Known as the Thermal Protection System (TPS), this shield was made up of LI-900 silicate ceramic tiles, fibrous refractory composite insulation tiles (FRCI), toughened unipiece fibrous insulation (TUFI) tiles, Nomex insulation blankets, and reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) surfaces for the nose cap and leading edges of the wings

For comparison, the Orion Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) relies on an ablative heat shield that is composed of Avcoat, a heat-retardant substance similar to what the Apollo missions used (sans toxic materials like asbestos). Similarly, SpaceX’s Crew and Cargo Dragon capsules rely on ablative heat shields, known as the PICA-X system.

While these materials are extremely heat-resistant – in the case of the Orion heat shield, able to withstand temperatures of up to 2200 °Celsius (4000 °Fahrenheit) – the fact that they need to be refurbished afterwards makes them a poor choice for reusable spacecraft.

By creating an integrated system that requires very little maintenance, SpaceX is delivering on its promise for creating a fully-reusable system.

These images are also in keeping with Musk’s promise that once complete, the Starship will conduct regular commercial missions to orbit, the Moon, and eventually to Mars.

In the case of Earth-bound missions, these flights will reportedly be dedicated to the deployment of satellites and cargo, as well as the possibility of intercontinental commercial flights.

The Martian missions, on the other hand, will focus on the transport of crews and cargo as part of a space tourism venture – ostensibly to finance further development of the Starship and its launch vehicle (the Super Heavy).

According to previous statements by Musk, one of the long-term goals is to create a permanent base on Mars (Mars Base Alpha) by 2028, which he shared a rendering of back in September.

In the meantime, SpaceX has reportedly commenced testing the Starship Hopper at their South Texas Launch Site this week. According to another statement previously made by Musk, the company hopes to finish construction of a full-scale orbital prototype by this summer as well.

It is no exaggeration to say that an awful lot hinges on the successful completion of these tests; not just for SpaceX, but for the commercial space industry (aka. NewSpace) as a whole.

With everything from space tourism and the ability to launch super-heavy payloads into orbit for a fraction of the price, there is no shortage of people hoping that Elon Musk and the Starship will succeed!

This article was originally published by Universe Today.

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