BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) – Elon Musk presented a progress update on the Starship development at the Boca Chica launch site Thursday evening.
Musk’s presentation took place on the site launchpad, with the colossal Starship, comprised of the Starship SN20 and SuperHeavy BN4 prototypes in the background. After a montage of testing footage taken over that last two years, Musk addressed the crowd of employees, community members, and reporters about the recent developments of the Starship program and also spoke about what could be coming up in the near future.
Musk began by explaining why such a project is taking place in the first place. Making life a multi-planetary species to avoid extinction is one of the top priorities according to Musk; developing a vehicle that could help humanity achieve that, as well as helping solve some of life’s greatest questions about the universe could also inspire people to look at the future with optimism.
“I think that’s incredibly fundamental to an exciting future, and that’s why we’re doing this,” said Musk while agreeing that the “vast majority of resources should be dedicated to solving problems on Earth.”
Musk explained that a rapid and fully reusable spacecraft, like Starship, has never been developed before but such a vehicle would be the “holy grail” for space travel and building a civilization on Mars. Musk estimates that it would take one million tons to build a self-sustaining city on Mars, and that would be possible with Starship. To put into perspective, a total of 15,517 tons have been launched into orbit so far. The same amount could be achieved by launching one Starship three times a week for one year.
Rapid reusability will be the game-changer in space travel. Musk says the “stage 2” booster portion, powered by 33 engines, will return to Earth within six minutes after launching and will be capable of being reused every hour. Whereas the “stage 3” ship portion will be able to be reused every six to eight hours or three times a day. As far as the propellant, the pumps will be capable of filling the Starship every half hour.
Musk said it took 13 months to design and build the “stage 0” integration tower that will be tasked with catching the booster upon reentry. He says that the design of the tower has been just as “complex and difficult” as the booster and ship.
As far as the Raptor engines, SpaceX has been able to reduce the size and increase the amount of thrust capable. Whereas version one of the Raptor engine was capable of 185 pounds of thrust, version two is capable of 230 pounds of thrust, and Musk believes they can increase the amount to 250. At this point, Musk says the production rate of the Raptor two is one a day and adds that SpaceX is close to being able to produce a booster and ship every month.
Musk also explained that the location of the Boca Chica site was important for Starship. Proximity to the equator as well as the ability to launch eastward will give Starship an extra boost from the Earth’s rotation as well as several miles of clear area in the case that something goes wrong.
The only comparable site would be at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where Musk says SpaceX has already broken ground on a Starship launchpad as well as a Starship production facility. Approval to launch Starship from the Kennedy Space Center has already been granted to SpaceX.
Musk addressed the expected upcoming decision from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that will determine whether SpaceX is granted the needed license to launch into orbit or not and says that he feels “optimistic” that the project will be able to move forward.
“We don’t have a ton of insight of where things stand with the FAA. We have gotten sort of a rough indication that there may be an approval in March,” said Musk. He adds that a lack of approval would cause a six to eight-month delay during which they would build up the launch tower in Florida.