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SpaceX Provides Update on Starship With Assembled Prototype as the Backdrop

Accepted submission by takyon at 2019-09-29 03:48:15
Techonomics

SpaceX's "completed" Starship Mark 1 (Mk1) prototype was unveiled during an update presentation in Boca Chica, Texas on Saturday. The craft has two prominent aft fins instead of the three used in previous renderings, and two smaller 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 is going to be higher than initially expected, about 100-120 tons instead of 85 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 a single seam weld. 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 [cnet.com]. It may be possible to get a Starship to orbit by itself, but 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.

Also at NASASpaceFlight [nasaspaceflight.com], Space.com [space.com], CBS [cbsnews.com].


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