SpaceX’s Starship rockets designed to send humans to Mars will take off from ocean-based spaceports, CEO Elon Musk stated Monday.
During a Twitter conversation about the future of space travel, the SpaceX CEO confirmed that the Starship vehicle and the Super Heavy booster used to lift it away from Earth will “will mostly launch from ocean spaceports long-term.” Musk later clarified that “occasional flights from land are ok, but frequent (daily) flights probably need ~30km / 18 miles clear area for noise.”
The comments illuminate SpaceX’s thinking around the Starship, which is designed to transport up to 150 tons, or 100 people, into space at a time. The reusable ship measures some 400 feet when paired with its booster. It is expected to take on missions currently completed by the existing Falcon 9 satellite launches, and to enable more ambitious missions, like crewed trips to the Moon and Mars. Its use of liquid oxygen and methane fuel means a crew could feasibly visit Mars, harvest resources from the planet to refuel, and either return home or perhaps venture even further.
Musk explains why SpaceX will use an ocean-based spaceport for launches. The firm’s CEO has previously suggested that one Starship can complete 1,000 launches per year – a huge number considering the company has completed only 100 missions over its 14 years of flights. The majority of SpaceX’s flights — 57 of them — have taken off from the land-based Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Starship’s increased flight frequency could require a greater distance from land.
Perhaps the biggest benefit for an ocean-based seaport would be frequent Earth-to-Earth flights. Musk claimed in June that SpaceX would start test flights within two to three years. The ships could also transport 1,000 people at a time across Earth, jetting from London to Hong Kong in just 34 minutes.