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posted by janrinok on Sunday October 27 2019, @07:21AM   Printer-friendly
from the ambitious dept.

Submitted via IRC for soylent_brown

SpaceX wants to land Starship on the Moon before 2022, then do cargo runs for 2024 human landing – TechCrunch

Speaking at a quick series of interviews with commercial space company’s at this year’s annual International Astronautical Congress, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell shed a little more light on her company’s current thinking with regards to the mission timelines for its forthcoming Starship spacefaring vehicle. Starship, currently in parallel development at SpaceX’s South Texas and Florida facilities, is intended to be an all-purpose successor to, and replacement for, both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, with a higher payload capacity and the ability to reach the Moon and eventually Mars.

“Aspirationally, we want to get Starship to orbit within a year,” Shotwell said. “We definitely want to land it on the Moon before 2022. We want to […] stage cargo there to make sure that there are resources for the folks that ultimately land on the moon by 2024, if things go well, so that’s the aspirational timeframe.”

That’s an ambitious timeline, and as Shotwell herself repeatedly stated, these are “aspirational” timelines. In the space industry, as well as in tech, it’s not uncommon for leadership to set aggressive schedules in order to drive the teams working on projects to work at the limits of what’s actually possible. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is also known for working to timelines that often don’t match up with reality, and Shotwell alluded to Musk’s ambitious goal setting as a virtue in another part of her on-stage interview at IAC.

“Elon puts out these incredibly audacious goals and people say ‘You’re not going to do it, you’ll never get to orbit, you’ll never get a real rocket to orbit, […] you’ll never get Heavy to orbit, you’ll never get Dragon to the station, you’ll never get Dragon back, and you’ll never land a rocket,'” she said. “So, frankly, I love when people say we can’t do it, because it motivates my fantastic 6,500 employees to go do that thing.”

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  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Sunday October 27 2019, @01:56PM

    by Immerman (3985) on Sunday October 27 2019, @01:56PM (#912415)

    The aspiration, as I recall, is that Starship will be cheaper *per-launch* than Falcon 9. Which would make it the preferred vehicle even for a single small payload - and the size would let it deliver many other payloads to other orbits on the same flight.

    Starship+SuperHeavy will absolutely consume a lot more fuel per launch than Falcon - but fuel is a rounding error in the cost of launch - well under 1% for Falcon 9 as I recall. Most of the cost is building the rocket, followed by ground support. And Falcon 9 has very limited reusability, with engines that need frequent extensive servicing. I think the most any rocket has been reused at this point is three times. Which is great, it brings the dominant launch cost down to roughly 1/3rd of what it otherwise would be (plus refurbishment costs), but doesn't hold a candle to a fully reusable vehicle. Starship is designed to be reused dozens to eventually thousands of times with little to no servicing between flights. The Raptor Engine in particular was designed as a methane engine rather than more typical kerosene in part because methane burns much cleaner, virtually eliminating "coking" - the build-up of partially-burned fuel deposits within the engine.

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