Musk readies Starship for launch
July 8, 2021
By Chris Forrester
Elon Musk’s massive Starship is being assembled at its Starbase launch facility at BocaChica in south Texas.
The Super Heavy Starship rocket is simply huge; The bottom, booster, stage stands 70 metres tall. Then SpaceX has added another 50 metres of the upper stage and the total combination of some 120 metres, and the end result is the largest rocket ever built to launch into space.
SpaceX current success story is focused on its Falcon 9 rocket. Falcon, in commemoration of the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars saga. The ‘9’ is the number of engines fitted at the base of the rocket’s booster stage. But the Starship has 28 of the more powerful Raptor engines generating 230 tonnes of thrust which is twice the thrust of NASA’s Apollo Satrun-5 rockets. There are another 6 Raptor engines on the upper stage.
The Musk intention is to recover the whole rocket, but the first flight attempts will be to get aloft and then orbit the upper stage to a destination some 100 kms off from one of the Hawaiian islands (Kauai) where it will ‘soft land’ into the ocean. Meanwhile, the lower booster stage will return to land 120 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, again into the water. The overall flight time is stated at just over 90 minutes.
Musk’s aim is to use this prototype for testing, and the launch cadence will then increase. Musk is already converting a pair of oil rigs to floating landing platforms. In May Musk said: “It’s intended to be such that the booster can be used, I don’t know, a dozen times a day, basically every couple of hours.”
Musk said in an X PRIZE webcast last month: “And that mostly is about reloading propellant and mounting the ship. and then the ship can probably be used, in theory, every three hours […] But certainly every, say, six to nine hours. We’ll call it twice a day for the ship. And we’ll make more ships than there are boosters.”
“Once we have the floating space platforms, we can position them such that the ship can come back in a single orbit,” Musk added. “So then it can be, let’s say we have three ship launches per day, that’s 1,000 flights a year, each with 100 to 150 tonnes of payload to orbit. I’d say it’s only recently though that I feel that full and rapid reusability can be accomplished. I wasn’t sure for a long time, but I am sure now.”
Starship will launch later this month.