On Saturday night (Sept. 28th), Elon Musk delivered an update about SpaceX’s next generation rocket, called Starship. The humongous 42-engine futuristic-looking spaceship, which will stand 400 feet tall when assembled and be completely reusable, is designed to carry up to 100 people to deep-space destinations like the moon and Mars, and land back on Earth perpendicularly.
Flanked by “Mark 1” (Mk1), a completed 165 feet tall stainless steel version of the Starship, Musk predicted in a livestreamed speech from SpaceX’s test facility near Boca Chica, Texas, that Starship’s first orbital flight could come as soon as six months from now, and carry its first passengers sometime next year.
“This is the most inspiring thing I’ve ever seen,” Musk said standing in front of the Mk1 prototype space vehicle. “This is basically the holy grail of space.”
Musk also explained how Starship will be used to make humans interplanetary. He revealed that he expected the Starship Mk1 – which has three of SpaceX’s next-gen Raptor engines attached to its base – Mk2 and the forthcoming Mk3 and Mk4 to fly in a few months to a suborbital altitude of 65,000 feet. Once that gets achieved successfully, the next goal would be achieving orbit. Production for the Super Heavy booster, which will stand 223 ft tall and weigh up to 3300 tons, won’t start until Mk4 is complete.
The “critical breakthrough that is needed for us to become a space-faring civilization is to make space travel like air travel”, Musk said, “We’re really right on the cusp of what’s physically possible,” he noted.
During Saturday evening’s hour-long update, Musk also detailed plans for Starship’s orbital refilling, which would allow the rocket to dock with tanker Starships already in orbit to transfer fuel. Needless to say, post-launch refilling is crucial for the spacecraft if it wants to sustain exploration efforts on the Moon and Mars. But Musk said SpaceX has become quite good at this process. “This is one of the other critical pieces of the puzzle to establish a base on the moon or Mars,” he said.
Musk concluded his update with a belief he’s been championing ever since SpaceX’s founding in 2002, to help humanity become a space-bearing civilization and a multi-planetary species.
“I think we should do our very best to become a multi-planet species and we should do it now.”