from the picture-this dept.
Specifically, Bridenstine (or whoever fed him the statement) went out of his way to make it entirely one-sided in its focus on SpaceX. By all appearances, it would have never been posted if not for Elon Musk's plans to present on Starship. Bridenstine additionally notes that "Commercial Crew is years behind schedule" and indicates that "NASA expects to see the same level of enthusiasm focused on [its] investments".
Altogether, it's simply impossible to interpret it as anything less than Bridenstine scolding SpaceX – and SpaceX alone – for not falling to the floor, kissing NASA's feet, and pretending that Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 are the only things in existence. Absent from Bridenstine's criticism was NASA's other (and even more delay-complicit) Commercial Crew Partner, Boeing, who has yet to complete a pad abort or orbital flight test of its Starliner spacecraft. SpaceX completed Crew Dragon's pad abort in 2015 and completed a flawless orbital flight test in March 2019.
[...] [As] Musk noted in his relatively subtle September 28th responses to Bridenstine's implicitly derisive comment, something like 50-80% of the entirety of SpaceX's workforce and resources are focused on Crew Dragon, the Falcon 9 rockets that will launch it, or a combination of both. At present, Starship is – at most – a side project, even if its strategic importance to SpaceX is hard to exaggerate. The same is largely true for Starlink, SpaceX's ambitious internet satellite constellation program. It may be true that Starship will eventually make Crew and Cargo Dragon (as well as Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy) wholly redundant, but that is likely years away and SpaceX will support NASA – as it is contractually required to – for as long as the space agency has vested interest in using Crew Dragon.
[...] It would be another two years before Congress began to seriously fund Commercial Crew at its requested levels, beginning in FY2016. In response to Bridenstine, former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver noted that over the ~5 years Congress consistently withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of critical funds from Commercial Crew, NASA's SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft were just as consistently overfunded above and beyond their budget requests. From 2011 to 2016 alone, SLS and Orion programs requested $11B and received an incredible $16.3B (148%) from Congress, while Commercial Crew requested $5.8B and received $2.4B (41%).
Human contamination of Mars with Earth microbes may be a "moral catastrophe":
If SpaceX was serious about planetary protection, I would expect to see a policy on its website, or easily found by searching "SpaceX planetary protection". But that isn't the case. So while it is possible that it has a rigorous planetary protection plan in place behind the scenes, its public-facing content seems to suggest that pushing the boundaries of human exploration is more important than the consequences of that exploration.
Others are arguing in favor of deliberate contamination of Mars:
On our planet, microbes like Rhizobium (which converts atmospheric nitrogen to biological nitrogen that can be used by plants) help maintain the gases our atmosphere and drive our food webs. So the scientists suggest that before sending humans to Mars, we should send some microorganisms from Earth there first.
"Life as we know it cannot exist without beneficial microorganisms," Jose Lopez, the lead author of the paper, said in a press release. "To survive on a barren (and as far as all voyages to date tell us) sterile planet, we will have to take beneficial microbes with us."
The Verge wonders how humans could be kept alive and well on a journey to Mars:
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has now given four presentations about his company's Starship rocket, but all of those updates mostly focused on the vehicle's external stats. Musk has barely touched on the technologies needed to keep people alive and healthy while on Starship — technologies that need to be developed relatively soon if the spacecraft has any hope of carrying people to deep-space destinations like the Moon and Mars in the near future.
[...] Thanks to the long distance, astronauts won't get resupply missions for years, and they will have communication delays with Earth. Radiation exposure will become even more severe, and it's unclear how that will affect the human body. "It's extremely naive to think that we can send people to Mars within even the next decade," Dorit Donoviel, director for the Translational Research Institute for Space Health, which is partnered with NASA, tells The Verge. "Realistically, it's going to be at least 10 years or more before we feel comfortable doing that."
Musk has addressed life support and human health in his Starship talks before, but only briefly. In his most recent presentation, the SpaceX CEO was asked twice about the types of life support systems that Starship would use. "I don't think it's actually super hard to do that, relative to the spacecraft itself," Musk said. "The life support system is pretty straightforward."
I went to Mars and all I got was this lousy cancer!
Finally, a SpaceX fan has been arrested for trespassing at SpaceX's Boca Chica facility:
Passionate photographers will often edge as close as they can to their subjects to frame the perfect shot. But over the weekend, JB Wagoner — a California resident, Tesla electric-car owner, aspiring space-technology entrepreneur, and self-described "big fan" of SpaceX — was accused of getting too close to a muse of many spaceflight enthusiasts: Starhopper, a rocket ship at the aerospace company's private launch site in Boca Chica, Texas.
Within hours of photographing the six-story steel vehicle, Wagoner said, he found himself spending time behind bars. "I get arrested, I get taken to jail, and spent the night with seven other guys in a 12-by-16 concrete cell, sleeping on the floor," Wagoner told Business Insider.
SpaceX pressed charges, and the Cameron County Sheriff's Department filed them. They called Wagoner just as he was about to leave for the airport, and he voluntarily turned himself in. Wagoner was interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security, but no federal charges were filed. He has been charged with a criminal trespassing, a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.
SpaceX's first full-scale Starship prototype – [Mark 1 (Mk. 1)] – has experienced a major failure at its Boca Chica test site in southern Texas. The failure occurred late in the afternoon on Wednesday, midway through a test of the vehicle's propellant tanks.
The Mk. 1 Starship – which was shown off to the world in September as part of SpaceX's and Elon Musk's presentation of the design changes to the Starship system was to fly the first 20 km test flight of the program in the coming weeks.
The main event of today, the Mk. 1 Starship's first cryogenic loading test, involved filling the methane and oxygen tanks with a cryogenic liquid.
During the test, the top bulkhead of the vehicle ruptured and was ejected away from the site, followed by a large cloud of vapors and cryogenic liquid from the tank.
Minutes after the anomaly was broadcast on several unofficial livestreams of SpaceX's Boca Chica facilities, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk acknowledged Starship Mk1's failure in a tweet, telegraphing a general lack of worry. Of note, Musk indicated that Mk1 was valuable mainly as a manufacturing pathfinder, entirely believable but also partially contradicting his September 2019 presentation, in which he pretty clearly stated that Mk1 would soon be launched to ~20 km to demonstrate Starship's exotic new skydiver landing strategy.
Musk says that instead of repairing Starship Mk1, SpaceX's Boca Chica team will move directly to Starship Mk3, a significantly more advanced design that has benefitted from the numerous lessons learned from building and flying Starhopper and fabricating Starship Mk1. The first Starship Mk3 ring appears to have already been prepared, but SpaceX's South Texas focus has clearly been almost entirely on preparing Starship Mk1 for wet dress rehearsal, static fire, and flight tests. After today's failure, it sounds like Mk1 will most likely be retired early and replaced as soon as possible by Mk3.
Above all else, the most important takeaway from today's Starship Mk1 anomaly is that the vehicle was a very early prototype and SpaceX likely wants to have vehicle failures occur on the ground or in-flight. As long as no humans are at risk, pushing Starship to failure (or suffering unplanned failures like today's) can only serve to benefit and improve the vehicle's design, especially when the failed hardware can be recovered intact (ish) and carefully analyzed.
Video of the rupture is available on NASASpaceFlight's forums. Start with this forum post and continue down the page for other pictures and videos.
Related: The SpaceX Starship Pushback: NASA Administrator's Scolding and More
SpaceX's Starship Can Launch 400 Starlink Satellites at Once
Artemis Program Requires More Cash to Reach Moon by 2024; SLS Could Cost 1,000x More Than Starship
SpaceX's "completed" Starship Mark 1 (Mk1) prototype was unveiled during an update presentation in Boca Chica, Texas on Saturday. The craft has two less-prominent aft fins instead of the three larger fins (acting as landing legs) seen in previous renderings, and two small fins on the nosecone. An upcoming 20 kilometer test flight of Mk1 will only use three sea level optimized Raptor engines, while the full version of Starship will use three sea level and three vacuum optimized Raptor engines. The dry mass of Starship will be higher than initially expected: about 100-120 tons instead of 85 tons (Mk1 is 200 tons). Payload to low Earth orbit (LEO) in fully reusable mode will start out near 100 tons but is expected to reach 150 tons.
SpaceX is currently making one new Raptor engine every 8-10 days, but hopes to speed that up to one engine every day in Q1 2020. The process of building Starships will also speed up due to unspooling steel and using single seam welds (giant rings of steel will still be joined together, but without the plates seen in Mk1). A Starship Mk3 could be completed within 3 months, and a Starship Mk3, Mk4, or Mk5 (with the Super Heavy booster) could reach orbit within 6 months from today. It may not be possible to get a Starship to orbit by itself, but even if it could, it would be expendable and not worth it. Therefore, orbital tests will depend on the rate of Raptor engine production. Around 100 engines will need to have been made by the time of the first test. Super Heavy could use as few as 24 engines to complete a mission, but is more likely to use 31, or a maximum of 37 engines. The amount is configurable as needed.
Elon Musk claimed that SpaceX could launch people on a Starship as early as next year, and that in-orbit refueling (called "orbital refilling" during the presentation) of Starship will be easier than docking with the International Space Station. The refueling process is necessary to get the full 100-150 tons of payload to the surface of the Moon, Mars, or other solar system destinations.
Musk estimated that a small fleet of 10-20 Starships could launch about 1,000 to 10,000 times as much mass to orbit in a year than is currently launched with all of the world's rockets annually, including SpaceX's Falcon 9/Heavy.
See also: r/SpaceX Starship Presentation Official Discussion & Updates Thread
SpaceX debuts Starship's new Super Heavy booster design
SpaceX envisions Starship-enabled cities on the Moon and Mars in new renders
Tesla on Mars addressed by Elon Musk in SpaceX's Starship Q&A session