The Starship, SpaceX’s planned giant rocket designed to send humans to Mars, is in for a packed couple of months.
Throughout last weekend, CEO Elon Musk outlined how the stainless steel behemoth will move from its current 150-meter hop tests to even more ambitious trials. These will pave the way for its initial operations, which are expected to range from small-scale satellite launches, to realizing Musk’s grand plan to establish a self-sustaining city on Mars as soon as 2050.
“I want to emphasize, this is a very hard and dangerous and difficult thing. Not for the faint of heart. Good chance you’ll die. And it’s going to be tough, tough going, but it’ll be pretty glorious if it works out.”
Musk first unveiled a full-size Starship prototype at the company’s Boca Chica development facility in Texas in September 2019. “Starship Mk.1” measured the same 160 feet high and 30 feet wide as the final ship is expected to measure. When paired with a Super Heavy booster that will enable it to leave the Earth, the final construction will measure around 400 feet tall. The ship will use this power to transport 150 tons, or 100 people, into space at a time.
During the interview and on his Twitter page, Musk revealed a number of details about the ship that have evolved during development. The most important is that, thanks to improvements in the Raptor engine power, the Super Heavy booster may only need 28 engines rather than the previously-expected 31 engines. The booster is now also expected to use four legs to stand on the ground rather than six, a change that Musk claims is designed “to avoid engine plume impingement in vacuum.”