Starship Mission — What is SpaceX up to?
Every space fiction enthusiast’s dream of intergalactic space travel is more tangible than ever and it’s all because of SpaceX’s Starship.
Simply put, Starship is a fully reusable system of two parts — a booster to escape the Earth’s gravity named Super Heavy and the spacecraft itself named Starship. It will be used as a space transport service akin to airline services on Earth. It is projected to be the most powerful launch system yet with payload capacity upwards of 100 metric tonnes. Initially, the system was proposed as a mechanism to colonise Mars and was named the Mars Colonial Transporter. Soon after they realised that its scope was well beyond Mars and christened it with the current name in 2018.
Since the conception of this idea in 2012, Starship has undergone numerous design and architectural changes. SpaceX started testing preliminary prototypes of various parts of the system in early 2019. Based on test results they experimented with different fin structures, number of Raptor engines, etc. The Serial Number 8 prototype (SN8) had a single sheet stainless steel body with a nose cone fairing, aerodynamic control surfaces, and three Raptor engines.
The first prototype to be tested was the Starhopper. This test article was used to test the Raptor engines that would power the Starship with a fuel mixture of liquid methane and oxygen. Subsequently, low altitude and high altitude prototypes were developed and some even tested. The most recent test on 9th December 2020 was the SN8 which successfully launched, performed the landing flip and exploded because of high landing velocity due to low pressure in the fuel header tank. Musk called it a successful flight despite the explosion as they had collected all the data they needed.
Starship will eventually replace SpaceX’s other launch and orbital services (Falcon 9 and Dragon). It is projected to cost a minimal 2 million dollars for each space flight compared to the 50 million dollar flights with NASA. Starship could be used for just about any of our space needs, from capturing and mending satellites to ferrying passengers and cargo to Mars and other planets. They have also released a first edition user’s guide describing payload options.
Musk has placed Starship at top priority in SpaceX, with the return of the crewed Dragon flight carrying NASA astronauts as the only exception. To raise funding and normalise the idea of space travel, the #dearMoon project was announced in 2018. Scheduled for 2023, it will be the first private spaceflight ever. Japanese art curator Yusaku Maezawa booked this week-long flight which will include a single flyby around the moon. A few other artists will accompany Yusaku to “gain artistic inspiration”. SpaceX has also collaborated with NASA again to land their astronauts for the Artemis lunar mission after 2024.
Even though human interplanetary flights may still be a long way off, round-the-clock development in the field and its achievability is very hopeful and inspirational for mankind. Emerging competitors in this field like Blue Origin and Dynetics have set off another space race and given huge momentum to this industry.
Keep up with Starship activities- https://www.spacex.com/vehicles/starship/
Starship on Wikipedia- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_Starship