TThe Starhopper is entering its next phase. Work is under way on an orbital prototype of the StarsX spacecraft, designed to transport humans to Mars and beyond, just a few days after the company completed its first jumps tied with the miniaturized version of the final ship.
In the same week that SpaceX plans the first commercial launch of Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket in the world, the company is looking to the future with a boat that could make even the impressive Heavy statistics come out of the water. Where the Falcon Heavy can deliver more than 140,000 pounds to low Earth orbit, the Starship is expected to deliver more than 200,000 pounds. Similarly, when the Heavy weighs 3.1 million pounds and is 230 feet tall, the Starship's original specifications in September 2017 revealed a boat that weighed 9.7 million pounds and had a height of 348 feet.
The orbital prototype of the stainless steel ship began to come to life in the testing facilities of the firm Boca Chica in Texas.
It's the next big step for the starship. The company ignited the Raptor engine for the first time in February, reaching 172 metric tons and a chamber pressure of 257 bar using a hot propellant. Then he completed two jumps tied last week, one on April 3 and another on 6 of April, with a miniaturized "Starhopper" that uses a motor. The next step will be to complete the "Starhopper" tests with three engines for suborbital flights, while work continues on the ship for orbital test launches.
Musk said in January that the orbital version would arrive next year, although he accelerated this timeline in March to June 2019 reveal. The final ship is expected to use 31 Raptor engines, seven on the ship itself and the rest on its propeller.
Teslarati Note that the stainless steel used in this construction looks thinner than the one used in the Starhopper, which may be due to a refinement of the ship's design in the accumulation of the final model.
Musk declared in December 2018 that the team had begun to build sections of the orbital version in San Pedro, California. The company finished the work in his "hopper" on January 11. Evidence suggests that SpaceX began construction of the orbital prototype in Boca Chica in mid-March, before the "hopper" completed its tests. Musk he told fans on Twitter that the "hopper" did not require a new nose despite having flown during a storm two months earlier, which means that the nose under construction was part of the orbital craft.
Starship: How to boost future SpaceX missions
Musk unveiled the Starship, then known as BFR, at the International Astronautics Congress in Adelaide, Australia, in September 2017. In its original design, the ship had a takeoff thrust of 5,400 tons, measured 348 feet long (157 feet of which were for the boat), and was able to comfortably transport around 100 people spread over more than 40 cabins.
Musk has changed the ship's name to the starship, giving it a stainless steel design that keeps the exterior cold through perspiration, essentially sweating fluids. SpaceX was testing the thermal backup shields at 2,510 degrees Fahrenheit last month.
The ship is powered by the Raptor engine. Unlike the Merlin engine used in Falcon 1, 9, and the Heavy that uses liquid oxygen and rocket propellant, the Raptor engine changes the propellant to methane. This is important, since it allows explorers to collect fuel from the atmosphere of other planets, which means that an expedition to Mars can set up a fuel tank and return home. Musk envisions a network of fuel tanks, creating a "planet jump" system that Neil deGrbade Tyson has said could reduce wars.
The cryogenic temperatures required to store these fuels have caused problems, delaying the first jump tests due to the formation of ice around the propulsive valves. NASA is also investigating similar issues. SpaceX expects to achieve 10 to 20 percent higher performance using cooled fuel instead of a hot propellant.
The company's most ambitious plan is to send the first humans to Mars. This is a trip that will last between three and six months. SpaceX plans to initially ship two unmanned steamships with cargo, before sending two more unmanned ships and two manned ships approximately two years later.
Like NASA, the company plans to time its launches to coincide with when Earth and Mars are at their closest point. Musk has said the company could develop a self-sufficient city on Mars by 2050, baduming the company starts in five years and completes its mission within 10 orbital synchronizations.
SpaceX is also planning some smaller missions. His goal is to send the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa on a trip around the moon with six to eight artists in 2023, as part of an art project. It is expected that the four to five day trip will be made before the first trips to Mars.
The company has even suggested using the boat to move people around the Earth, traveling from New York to Paris in 30 minutes.
It all starts with those curved steel cones in the facilities of Boca Chica.