Next Week Will See Elon Musk’s First Starship Update in Two Years

Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, has stated that he would be giving an update on the company’s next-generation Starship Rocket in the evening of the coming Thursday. Musk’s latest update on the vehicle was more than two years ago in 2019.

What Is Starship?

Starship is a new and gigantic space rocket that the company has been constructing for several years at its test facility in Boca Chica in the state of Texas. The entirely reusable vehicle is expected to launch atop a massive launcher which is called the Super Heavy.

The vehicle could transport people and goods to far-flung locations such as the moon. The billionaire even has plans to use the rocket as a vehicle to travel from Earth to the Planet Mars.

SpaceX has carried out some high-altitude test flights with Starship so far but has yet to send it into orbit. It has been permitted to launch into the Boca Chica orbit by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

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Musk has been talking about his intentions to build this project since 2016. The designs have been altered a lot of time over the years and the project’s center has seen several design changes and iterations as well.

The Starship is also known as BFR and Mars Colonial Transporter. In the early August of 2021, while both the projects were still weeks or months away from completion, Starship S20 and Super Heavy booster B4 were stacked for the first time.

Starship S20 began a multi-month phase of qualification tests only a few months later, finally becoming the first Starship prototype to successfully test all six Raptor engines at the same time.

For unknown reasons, Super Heavy B4 had an even more difficult time and only graduated to basic cryogenic proof testing in the mid of December, more than four months later.

Even though the booster has had all 29 Raptor 1 engines mounted for months, it has yet to perform or try a single static fire of any of them, let alone a basic wet dress rehearsal with genuine liquid oxygen and methane propellant.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

SpaceX did eventually conduct a few Booster 4 Raptor ignition tests, but these were almost as much a test of the launch pad as they were of Super Heavy. SpaceX’s slow and limited progress in testing Super Heavy B4 could be due to concerns with the orbital launch pad’s tank farm architecture.

Thousands of tonnes of propellant and coolant have already been stored in the oxygen and nitrogen half of the farm, but the fuel side has yet to be loaded with methane, which makes completely testing a Super Heavy booster considerably more difficult, however, there are some obvious solutions SpaceX might have implemented if it had truly desired to begin proof testing Booster 4 as soon as it was possible.

It is, in fact, still unclear if the two projects will be able to achieve their intended purpose of assisting the vehicle on its maiden velocity test flight. Nonetheless, these are two massive projects that have a large amount of time and money invested.  

The Presentations About the Vehicle

Musk provided his most recent update about the project in September, two years earlier. He stood in front of a full-scale Starship prototype in Boca Chica. Almost two and a half years later, a new presentation will be held on Thursday, 10th of February at 9 p.m. according to a tweet by CEO Elon Musk. No other details about the event have been released yet.

Elon Musk said that he would be providing the first major Starship program update in two and a half years. Additionally, Musk claimed that SpaceX would conduct the second ever ‘full stack’ fit test with a Starship upper stage and Superheavy booster as the event and update’s highlight. 

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How Big Is the Project Really and What Is the Vision of SpaceX?

While Musk has been wanting long to fulfill his dream, his pet project of a vehicle to send to Mars, he is not the only person who seems into the idea. NASA has also shown interest in the project. SpaceX was awarded a $2.9 billion contract last year to construct Starship as a lander that will transport NASA astronauts to the lunar surface.

In 2022, SpaceX appears to be concentrating on testing a relatively unimportant component of the first orbital Starship launch site, “chopstick” arms put atop the launch tower.

The present launch tower designs revolve around the necessity for three massive swinging arms, one to fuel and power the vehicle, the other two to lift, stack, and capture Super Heavy rockets and ships in the future.

The booster would have been fuelled through the launch mount and the Starship would have been fuelled through a connection with the booster. The plan was to simplify the tower considerably. This was the initial design of the Starship.

In principle, however, substituting that design with a complicated, building-sized umbilical arm may boost the nominal payload to orbit of Starship by a few percent.

Of fact, the tower’s lift/catch arms are only truly irreplaceable once waiting a few days for safe lift conditions becomes a bottleneck for Starship launch procedures, as SpaceX did the first full-stack fit test with a crane.

Even if Starship to be used as a vehicle of transportation between the two planets seems too far-fetched and ‘out of the world’ literally and figuratively, the vision of this man has never ceased to amaze us all.

Even if SpaceX does not get any closer to orbital test flights than it was before, the successful stacking of these arms and other technological advancements would bring a lot to the syllabus of space vehicles and prove to be very helpful shortly and the developments it brings.

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