• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

What to know about the biggest flying object ever made – SpaceX Starship

SpaceX’s Starship Musk

In the early 2010s, Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, with his dream to colonise Mars set his sights on a new spacecraft concept — Starship.

This dream became a project in 2012. Musk envisioned a reusable rocket system that would outperform even the powerful Falcon 9 and upcoming Falcon Heavy rockets.

The design went through many changes and nicknames along the way. It was once called the Mars Colonial Transporter, then the Interplanetary Transport System, and even the rather colorful BFR (Big Fucking Rocket).

SpaceX re-design stages

Finally, in 2018, the design solidified into what we now know as SpaceX Starship.

“At ~5000 tons, Starship is the largest flying object ever made,” SpaceX Elon Musk tweeted on X-formerly-Twitter.

Standing at an impressive 120 meters (390 feet) tall when stacked, Starship and its companion Super Heavy claim the title of the world’s tallest launch vehicle. Both stages of Starship boast an identical width of 9 meters (30 feet), making for a truly massive rocket.

The fully fueled Starship packs a serious punch, weighing in at roughly 5,000 tons (11,000,000 pounds). Unlike most rockets, This makes it the undisputed heavyweight champion of reusable spacecraft ever built by humans (excluding permanent space stations, of course). Both stages are engineered to be recovered after a mission, allowing for quicker turnaround times and more cost-effective launches.

The Starship is designed to replace SpaceX’s current workhorses, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. It will play a key role in expanding SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation, likely by deploying large batches of satellites at once.

Also, the linchpin of SpaceX’s ambitious plan is to establish a human presence on Mars, and expected to be capable of transporting crews not just to low Earth orbit, but to Mars, opening doors for deep space exploration.

Musk SpaceX Starship

Starship’s journey to space has seen its share of triumphs and setbacks. While the program has one successful launch (IFT-3) as of today, two previous attempts (IFT-1 and IFT-2) didn’t quite stick the landing. The first launch blasted off on April 20, 2023, and the most recent one took to the skies on March 14, 2024.

Starship’s recent launch marked a significant milestone. While it successfully reached the vast expanse of space, the return journey ended with a splashdown in the ocean.

Though the recent launch didn’t end with a picture-perfect landing, it marked a significant leap forward for SpaceX. Compared to previous attempts.

SpaceX’s Starship technical components consist of two parts, the Super Heavy booster, with a height of 71 meters and powered by 33 Raptor engines, a mighty 7,590 tons-force of thrust. At the same time, its spacecraft has a sleek upper stage reaching 50 meters. The Starship utilizes a combination of 3 Raptor engines and 3 vacuum engines for deep space travel, and a heat-resistant thermal protection system to endure atmospheric reentry. Additionally, the Starship is designed for complex flips and maneuvers during landing.

Starship’s development hasn’t been all smooth sailing. There have been setbacks, like the SN1 tank’s dramatic burst during a pressure test (February 2020) and the SN3’s unfortunate collapse under cryogenic pressure (April 2020). Even the high-altitude flight test of SN11 ended in an explosion.

However, SpaceX uses these setbacks to refine Starship’s design. The recent success of SN15 is a testament to this ongoing process.

Despite the hiccups, Starship represents a monumental leap forward in space exploration. Its ambitious goals to transport humans to Mars and beyond continue to capture the world’s imagination.