Sina Technology News Beijing time on November 18, SpaceX has been promoting the development of the largest super heavy reusable launch system “starship” in history. Its CEO Elon Musk recently said that SpaceX is confident to complete the first orbital flight test of the star ship sometime next year.
Musk made the comments at the first online joint fall meeting of the Committee on space research and the Committee on physics and astronomy of the National Academy of Sciences. The topic of his speech was very simple, namely “SpaceX star ship discussion”. In the subsequent Q & a session, he answered questions about the technical and operational details of the star ship system.
Starship is the next generation of large rocket system being developed by SpaceX, which will be mainly used to launch goods and personnel in lunar and Mars missions. Musk’s short-term goal is to let SpaceX complete the work of the launch pad and launch tower of Starbase later this November. The base is located in Boca Chica, Texas. It can be regarded as a new city under Musk’s auspices, with large-scale space facilities. Next, SpaceX hopes to conduct the first orbital launch of the star ship in January 2022. Musk said there may be 12 or more launches in the rest of 2022.
However, this does not mean that the star ship will enter orbit in January next year. Musk carefully pointed out: “there are many risks in the first launch, so I can’t say that the probability of success is very high, but I think we will make great progress.”
Another major obstacle to the launch in January next year is regulatory approval. SpaceX’s launch activities in stabes are currently undergoing an environmental assessment by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Earlier this week, the FAA said it would complete the review by December 31. Therefore, if everything goes according to Musk’s plan, January is the earliest feasible time to launch a star ship.
Musk also estimated that about two years later, SpaceX could start launching star ships at a cheaper price than Falcon 9, which was even earlier than the timetable proposed by SpaceX for NASA’s human landing system (HLS). Previously, SpaceX won the only bid to develop HLS. HLS is part of the third phase (Artemis 3) of NASA’s Artemis program and is expected to be launched in 2025. This will be the first plan to send humans to the moon since the Apollo program.
Compared with all other launch systems in history, the scale of star ship systems (including star ship spacecraft and super heavy rockets) cannot be overstated. After full assembly, the height of the Starship system will reach 120 meters (compared with 98 meters for the space launch system and Orion spacecraft being developed by NASA). The star ship system can repeatedly launch more than 100 tons of load into orbit, becoming what musk described as “a general large solar system transportation system”.
However, Musk’s goal is not just to build one, two or even ten star ships. In his speech, he pointed out that mankind may need about 1000 (star ship) launch systems to truly become a “multi planet species”. SpaceX has set up a factory for mass production of such launch systems – or as close to mass production as possible.
SpaceX’s development speed is amazing. In May this year, SpaceX test flew the 15th prototype of the star ship, and the carrier rocket successfully landed vertically, reaching an altitude of about 9000 meters. This is the first time that the test has been completed without damage to the launch vehicle.
“The primary goal of SpaceX is to promote the development of space technology, make mankind a multi planetary species, and finally become a space civilization, so that the plots we read in science fiction become a reality, not always fictional,” Musk said at the joint meeting of the National Academy of Sciences. “I think this is very important for the long-term preservation of the light of human thought.” (Ren Tian)