Slides & animations from Starship 2019 update presentation by Elon Musk

SpaceX Starship

Starship Super Heavy (previously known as Big Falcon Rocket, Interplanetary Transport System and Mars Colonial Transporter) is a fully reusable two-stage super heavy-lift launch vehicle and spacecraft currently developed by leading NewSpace company SpaceX. Starship will be capable to lift up to 150 metric tons to low Earth orbit (LEO) when fully reused. The Super Heavy booster stage will be used only to boost the Starship from Earth. This rocket will eventually replace all of SpaceX's launch vehicles (Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy) and spacecrafts (Dragon and Crew Dragon) currently in use.

On November 2018 Elon Musk announced "Big Falcon Rocket" (shortened as BFR) has been renamed to "Starship" for the spacecraft part and to "Super Heavy" for the booster part. Will see if the naming stands as it has been changed several times.

Here is an excellent article covering in great technical detail the entire development history of Starship from early concepts to the present design being built at Boca Chica, Texas.

The main purpose of building such a large rocket is to enable the colonization of Mars but Starship will be capable to do a lot of different tasks – to place satellites or space stations in orbit, ferry passengers to space stations or the Moon and even ferry passengers or cargo between any destinations on Earth within an hour.

The rocket consists of two stages – the booster (aka "Super Heavy") and the spacecraft (aka "Starship"). Both stages will use methalox rocket engine called "Raptor". SpaceX chose methalox fuel for its next generation rocket engine not only because methane can be easily produced on Mars but also because it burns cleaner (allowing cheaper reusability) and don't require super-low temperature for storage as hydrogen does. Another novelty – while originally SpaceX intended to use carbon fiber for the body of Starship & Super Heavy, now the plan is to use a variant of 30X stainless steel polished to mirror-like level for better thermal protection and higher strength-to-weight ratios at both cryogenic and high temperatures.


SpaceX Starship
Starship (formerly known as Big Falcon Ship / Spaceship) is the 2nd stage of the rocket and will be made in three versions – crewed, cargo and tanker. Starship will be 9 meters in diameter and use 3 sea-level and 3 vacuum Raptor engines. It will have a pressurized volume of over 1000 m3 – more than the International Space Station.

Starship will have unique heat protection with only the windward side (receiving higher pressure from air molecules) of the ship having heat shield of hexagonal ceramic tiles; the leeward side will be protected by ship's shiny stainless steel body itself, mirroring away most of the heat. This design decision will (hopefully) provide for Starship a lightweight, robust and cheaply reusable protection from entry heat even coming in at interplanetary speeds.

Starship, having 6 landing legs, 2 rear and 2 smaller forward actuated fins, is designed to be able retropropulsively land anywhere in the Solar system, including Earth, the Moon and Mars. It's also the first spacecraft designed to be able to support and land large quantity of cargo and passengers on other planetary bodies. To do so it will require on-orbit refueling by one or more Starship tankers depending on the destination and cargo.
Starting Starship's active test program in early 2019 SpaceX built the first prototype test vehicle (Starhopper) at its Boca Chica launch facility in South Texas, now known as Starbase, mated it with a single Raptor engine and conducted several hop tests. Starhopper lifted up for about 150 meters in its last test on August 2019 and was retired. There was a second Starship test facility in Cocoa, Florida, but after the first full scale test vehicle Starship Mk1 exploded on November 2019 in Boca Chica, the Cocoa site was abandoned. After several Starship prototypes had exploded during pressure tests Starship SN4 was the first to pass them and performed several static fire tests before it was destroyed in the last one. On August 2020 Starship SN5 successfully passed the same test Starhopper did - a 150 meter hop. A month later Starship SN6 did the same. Starship SN8 was the first flight-ready prototype to have a nose cone, fins and three Raptor engines. On December 2020 it successfully performed a 12.5 km flight with the distinctive "skydiver" belly flop maneuver on descent before crashing on the landing pad. Starships SN9, SN10 & SN11 met a similar fate. Starship SN15, the next major iteration of Starship family with hundreds of improvements over the previous prototypes, was the first to finnaly stick the landing on May 2021. SpaceX has already built sections for several more Starship prototypes and first Super Heavy booster prototypes.

SpaceX is hoping to make first orbital flight of the full rocket system (with Super Heavy boosting the Starship) in the summer of 2021, perform first flight around the Moon in 2023 and land first humans on Mars in 2027. We are predicting the later two milestones will happen several years later – in 2025 and 2031 respectively because developing a human-rated spacecraft is a lot harder task than building "just" a cargo rocket, as the example of Crew Dragon teaches us.

Every design iteration of Starship from 2016 to 2019:
SpaceX Starship evolution 2016-2019 by Kimi Talvitie

Lunar Starship

SpaceX Lunar Starship on the Moon
On April 2021 NASA announced it has selected SpaceX to develop the first commercial human lander that will carry American astronauts to the lunar surface in mid-2020s as part of the Artemis program. Since 2020 SpaceX is developing a lunar optimized Starship to transport crew between lunar orbit and the surface of the Moon. The Lunar Starship will land on the surface of the Moon with large gas thrusters instead of the Raptor engines (which are too powerful and would kick up a ton of Lunar regolith during landing), it won't have flaps and heat shielding (required for Earth return), will be painted white and will have a Dragon-derived docking port on the nosecone.

Super Heavy

SpaceX Super Heavy booster
Super Heavy (formerly known as Big Falcon Booster) is the 1st stage of the rocket, will be 9 meters in diameter and use up to 33 Raptor engines. It will have more thrust than any rocket in human history – more than all the stages of Saturn V combined. It will be used only to boost the Starship from the surface of Earth because of its deep gravity well; from other possible destinations, as Mars or the Moon, Starship will be capable to lift off by itself.

After boosting the Starship (in its crewed, cargo or tanker version) Super Heavy will retropropulsively land back on a landing pad near its launch mount (similar as some of Falcon 9 & Falcon Heavy boosters do). It will have 4 fixed landing legs.

Iterations of Starship Super Heavy:

Official and fan-made art of Starship & Super Heavy:

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1 comment:

  1. When you update SpaceX's predictions, can you provide links to those statements online, e.g. "SpaceX is hoping to make first orbital flight of the full rocket system (with Super Heavy boosting the Starship) by the end of X2020X 2021, perform first flight around the Moon in 2023 and land first humans on Mars in X2025X 2027."