Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of SpaceX, greeted a crowd of around 200 staff members and special guests at the company’s launch facility in Bolsa Chica, Texas on Saturday, September 28, 2019, to unveil the private tech company’s latest spacecraft in the works, Starship.
The Starship Mark 1 prototype was unveiled next to its predecessor, the Falcon 1, the company’s first spacecraft to successfully make it into the Earth’s orbit.
During his speech, Musk mentioned the unveiling of the second stage of Starship, was a monumental moment for the company, displaying the latest advancement next to the company’s first.
The unveiling of Starship, the collective name for the two-stage spacecraft, took place on the 11th anniversary of the first successful Falcon1 launch that put SpaceX on the map as a private space technology pioneer.
The spacecraft will consist of two stages, both of which will be reusable, in an attempt to make space travel more like air travel. Reusable spacecrafts will lower mission costs and lead to faster turnaround time between flights.
Stage one of Starship is the Super Heavy rocket. The rocket will be 9 meters in diameter and 68 meters in height. Powering the flight into space is 37 Raptor engines, capable of 72 millinewtons of thrust to get the spacecraft into the Earth’s orbit. The engines will use sub-cooled liquid methane and liquid oxygen to reach orbit.
The goal for the Super Heavy rocket is for it to return to its launch site on Earth to be refueled and prepared for its next flight.
The second phase of the ship, Starship, will have a payload of 100 metric tons that will be used to transport crew and cargo into space and will be fully reusable. When Starship is officially launched, currently the goal for official launch is sometime in 2020, it will be the first reusable transportation system to allow a crew and cargo to enter the Earth’s orbit, reach the moon, and Musk’s ultimate goal of Mars.
SpaceX is putting all its efforts into Starship Development, with the raptor engines being built at the company headquarters in Hawthorne, California. While the prototypes, Mark 1 and Mark 2 are being built across the company’s two test facilities, the McGregor test facility in Boca Chica, Texas and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida.
There is a friendly competition between the two sites, as to who can build a successful prototype in the “one to two months” time frame Musk gave the crowd.
The first test of the Mark 1 prototype was carried out on Wednesday, November 20 in Boca Chica, Texas, and resulted in the prototype rupturing under testing conditions.
SpaceX took the opportunity of this testing failure to reassure the public that under the testing conditions, the rupture was a result they took into consideration. Replying to comments on twitter Musk stated that the Mark 3 prototype will be a “major upgrade” to the Mark 1.
The public can expect to see the first successful test launches of Starship sometime in 2020. Musk is highly optimistic about the project and believes “we could potentially see people flying next year.”
However, as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) administrator, Jim Bridenstine notes, SpaceX was one among several other private contractors to be awarded a contract to develop a passenger version of their Dragon Spacecraft to take humans to the International Space Station.
The question that remains for NASA, if all of SpaceX’s efforts are being put into Starship can the company complete the already years behind schedule Dragon project?
This article has been updated to include results from a test launch of the Starship on November 20, 2019 in Bolsa Chica, Texas.