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Musk targets 100 people per Starship

June 10, 2020

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is normally focused on launching satellites into orbit, plus a couple of astronauts now and again. But now he is targeting his all-new ‘Starship’ super-rocket, and flights carrying up to 100 people.

Musk’s Starship is the vehicle which he wants to use to get missions to the Moon, and eventually Mars. He says getting the craft ready is now the “top SpaceX priority” and that staff needed to accelerate progress dramatically and immediately.

“Please consider the top SpaceX priority (apart from anything that could reduce Dragon return risk) to be Starship,” Musk wrote in the email to staff.

Up until now SpaceX has used its core Falcon 9 rocket in ever-more powerful ‘Super Heavy’ versions and to date there have been some 85 missions, with most of their booster stages re-landing after launch either onto firm ground or one of Musk’s floating barges.

However, Musk’s plan is to use the giant Starship (aka the ‘Big Falcon Rocket’ or BFR) on a totally reusable basis and landing and refueling in the same way that an aircraft is used.

But there are problems. Of the four prototypes built so far each has had a somewhat catastrophic and often explosive end. None has flown. Each version has performed better than the previous iteration, but – as with a May 29th engine test – ended up as a fireball.

To date Musk’s team of 8000 engineers have been focused on launching batches of 60 ‘Starlink’ broadband satellites, or the Crew Dragon capsule which took two astronauts to the International Space Station a few days ago.

Now that those tasks are more routine, Musk is switching much of SpaceX’s focus to his South-east Texas facility of Boca Chica, on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, where the Starship is being developed.

Starship Version 5 is now being prepared, although Starship 6 and 7 are also under construction.

Will there be further setbacks? Probably, but Musk’s record in achieving his goals is superb.

One point worth noting is that Musk’s Starlink broadband satellites are now capable of handling 5 trillion bytes (5TB) of data on a daily basis. The system is already contracted to handle traffic for the US Army. Musk gets things done.

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