An unmistakable fact of SpaceX’s Starship, stacked atop the Superheavy rocket, is its immensity. The rocket ship is a gleaming, stainless-steel tower the height of a skyscraper at SpaceX’s South Texas Starbase facility.
Its purpose is to deliver 100 metric tons of people and material anywhere in the solar system, either to Earth orbit or to the moon and Mars with refueling. When it flies, it will revolutionize space travel in the same way that the ocean-going caravel revolutionized maritime transport centuries ago.
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, gave a presentation about the Starship to a crowd at the Starbase with the launch vehicle as a backdrop.
Musk claims that he will be able to undertake the Starship’s first orbital test this year, pending environmental permission, which he hopes to happen in March. The report has been postponed until March 28 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Musk does have a contingency plan to move operations to Florida if the regulators decide to throw some roadblocks in his way — but moving to Florida would cause the construction of Starship to be delayed by six to eight months. NASA, which relies on it to land people on the moon, would be concerned.
Certain parties would be unconcerned if the Starship was delayed a little. According to Politico, SpaceX’s competitors are worried about the consequences of a working Starship. It’s bad enough that the SpaceX Falcon 9 has greatly reduced the cost of launching items and people into space, in their opinion.
According to Musk, the Starship will be able to transport an incredible amount of stuff and people for a few tens of millions of dollars each launch, first to low-Earth orbit, then to the moon and Mars. Aside from domestic rivalry, Russia and China, both of which have space aspirations, are likely to be keeping a close eye on the situation.
Regardless of whether the Starship/Superheavy rocket is allowed for launches from Texas or must relocate to Florida, the Superheavy will splash down in the water near the launch site, and the Starship will land in the ocean near Hawaii in the first orbital test. Subsequent launches will undoubtedly put the two stages to the test in terms of their capacity to return to the launch site undamaged.
Once the Starship proves its ability to launch, conduct orbital operations and then land safely, the possibilities are almost endless. SpaceX already has plans for the rocket to launch Starlink satellites, hundreds at a time rather than a few dozen that the Falcon 9 can deliver. The Starship could deliver a space telescope many times the size and capabilities of the Hubble or a complete commercial space station.
Jared Isaacman, a billionaire who has already flown with a group on SpaceX’s Crewed Dragon, is planning a series of missions that will culminate in the first crewed Starship. Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa still has plans to take a group of artists on an epic journey around the moon in the future.
The Human Landing System, which would carry people to the lunar surface for the first time in decades, will be based on a variant of the Starship. SpaceX has agreed to do one uncrewed test in advance of the human landing, which is presently slated for 2025.
While NASA only planned one Artemis mission per year, SpaceX might land goods and people on the moon numerous times each year. Everything depends on the company’s ability to manage speedy launch, landing, and turnaround, as well as dependable low-Earth orbit refueling. NASA’s Orion/Space Launch System would quickly become outdated if SpaceX can develop an Earth-to-moon transit system on their own.
Musk’s long-term ambition is to build a metropolis on Mars. To make it happen, he claims he’ll need to carry a million tons of stuff across interplanetary gulfs, not to mention the people who want to colonize Mars. If the Starship/Superheavy system is capable of doing this, the launch vehicle will have altered the course of history. Humanity will genuinely evolve into a multiplanetary society.