Musk ‘confident’ about Starship orbital launch this year

STARBASE, United States: Elon Musk provided an update on SpaceX’s efforts to develop its Starship interplanetary rocket on Thursday evening, but refrained from announcing a firm launch date for an orbital test or new missions, despite considerable buildup ahead of the rare presentation.

Speaking to an audience at the company’s Starbase facility near Boca Chica, South Texas, the tycoon simply said, “I’m very confident at this point that we’ll get to orbit this year,” while hinting at a potential pivot to launch from Florida if the company encounters regulatory hurdles.

Musk spoke against the impressive backdrop of the spacecraft in its fully stacked configuration, 120 meters (394 feet) high, with a matte black upper stage atop a shimmering silver Super Heavy first stage rocket.

Together they form the largest spacecraft ever built: larger than even the Saturn V rockets that took astronauts to the Moon in the Apollo era.

Made of stainless steel and designed to be fully reusable, Starship is also intended to be the most powerful rocket in the world and will be capable of lifting up to 100 metric tons into Earth orbit.

SpaceX envisions the ship carrying crew and cargo to the Moon, Mars and beyond, and last year NASA awarded the company a contract for a version of Starship to ferry astronauts for the Artemis program from the Moon. lunar orbit on the surface.

$10 million launches?

In his first detailed progress report on the project since 2019, Musk recapped his ultimate vision for colonizing Mars as “life insurance” in the event of disaster on Earth, and as the first step to expanding Mars’ footprint. humanity beyond the solar system.

The speech was peppered with dry humor, like his “sales pitch” for Mars: “It’s going to be cramped, dangerous, difficult, very harsh word, you could die”, although he hopes to eventually terraform the planet Red.

Musk also included a few updates for fans, like an illustration of how one spacecraft would be sent to refuel another on deep space travel, and the advantage of thrust and the neater design. of the latest generation of Raptor engines compared to the first iteration.

Each Starship booster is expected to have 33 Raptors, and a bottleneck in production is expected to ease in the coming weeks, with up to one engine manufactured per day by next month, Musk said.

He also revealed that within a few years the launch cost could be as low as $10 million, a price that could revolutionize the industry by making rockets attractive for commercial transport.

A flight to Singapore from the United States takes 20 hours “whereas in a rocket it would take less than an hour. So about 45 minutes or thereabouts.

Starship’s upper stage has already made several suborbital flights. After multiple tests that ended in impressive explosions, SpaceX finally managed to land the spacecraft last May.

Possible pivot to Florida

But a much more ambitious orbital test awaits environmental impact clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA said in a December statement that it would submit a report by February 28.

Musk said that while he was optimistic about the approval, he was ready to move launch operations to the company’s launch site at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, if successful.

Former deep-sea oil rigs the company has acquired to convert into rocket and land launch sites could also come into play, he added.

Beyond exploration missions, Starship’s huge payload capacity could also be a boon for astronomers looking to place larger telescopes in space, while the US military has given SpaceX a contract five years to demonstrate its ability to transport cargo around the world in an ultra-fast way. time.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has hired Starship for a trip around the moon with a team of artists, and Musk hinted that there will soon be “future announcements that I think people will be pretty excited about,” without saying disclose more.

Comments are closed.