SpaceX Starship separating from Super Heavy booster

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 over 100 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 Dragon 2) 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.

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 it 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 previously SpaceX intended to use carbon fiber for the body of Starship & Super Heavy, now the plan is to use stainless steel polished to mirror-like level for better thermal protection and higher strength-to-weight ratios at both cryogenic and high temperatures.


SpaceX Big Falcon Ship v2018Starship (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 7 Raptor engines. It will have a pressurized volume of over 1000 m3 – more than the International Space Station.

Starship will have unique heat shield with windward side (receiving higher pressure from air molecules) of the stainless steel ship having reinforced hexagonal tiles and for the hotspots – double-layer hull regeneratively cooled by liquid propellant evaporating through microscopic holes on the outer layer (transpiration cooling). With most of the heat already mirrored away by the shiny hull this system will (hopefully) provide to Starship a robust and cheaply reusable protection from entry heat.

Starship, having three landing legs (1 fixed and 2 actuated) on rear and smaller actuated fins on forward, 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.

SpaceX Starhopper test fire
SpaceX has already built the first prototype Starship test vehicle (Starhopper) without any nose cone at its Boca Chica launch facility in South Texas, mated it with a single Raptor engine and conducted at least 2 static hot-fires in April 2019. Starhopper lifted up for about 0.9 meters in the last test but was held down by tethers around its legs. Simultaneously SpaceX is building a second test vehicle nearby with a nose cone ("Starhopper" v2?) and has already requested permission for test flights up to 5 kilometers high.

SpaceX is hoping to make first orbital flight of the full rocket system (with Super Heavy boosting the Starship) by the end of 2020, perform first flight around the Moon in 2023 and land first humans on Mars in 2025 (although Musk has recently expressed doubts there will be humans on that flight). We are predicting the later two milestones will happen several years later – in 2026 and 2031 respectively because developing a human-rated spacecraft is a lot harder task than building "just" a cargo rocket, as the example of Dragon 2 teaches us.

Super Heavy

SpaceX Starhopper, Starship and Super Heavy comparison Super Heavy (formerly known as Big Falcon Booster) is the 1st stage of the rocket, will be 9 meters in diameter and use 31 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 be capable to retropropulsively land back on its launch mount (although the initial block 1 version of Super Heavy will have similar landing legs/fins as Starship).

Iterations of Starship & Super Heavy:

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

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