Built from shiny stainless-steel, with its nostril embellished with fins and ten metres taller than the giant Saturn V rocket, Elon Musk’s Starship rocket seems to be poised to revolutionise space travel. Capable of transporting thousands of tonnes in weight and greatly reduce back and forth travelling between space and Earth, the fully reusable rocket holds hope for the settlement of a colony on Mars.
1. Starship and Saturn V
Described by The Economist as “one thing from the quilt of a 1950 pulp science-fiction journal“, Starship is a fully reusable and super heavy-lift launch vehicle in development by SpaceX. Both of its stages — super heavy booster and Starship spacecraft — use liquid oxygen and liquid methane as propellant. Starship’s main features are its very high payload mass capability and low potential operating cost.
Apparently inspired by SpaceX, China is researching and developing new vehicles for various human spaceflight missions, including a new methane-fuelled launcher, states a report from Space News.
Starship’s massive payload — as much as 150 tonnes — means that 5 Starship flights are likely to transport much more into space than the remainder of the world managed with 135 rocket launches in 2021. Its higher stage comprises extra pressurised quantity than the International Space Station, which took a decade, dozens of launches and around $100 billion to assemble.
Musk’s magnificent rocket surpasses the greatest rocket ever made. Saturn V was an American-made heavy-lift launch vehicle used by NASA between 1967 and 1973. Taller than the Statue of Liberty, the Saturn V was developed under the Apollo program for human exploration of the Moon and was later used to launch Skylab, the first American space station that existed until 1979.
Musk has considered the eventuality of building a fleet of Starships. If each were indeed launching several times a day, that would give SpaceX the ability to vastly increase capacity by a million tonnes of equipment into orbit each year. BryceTech reckons that, in 2021, the world managed to haul 750 tonnes.
2. Colony on Mars
During a press conference on 10 February, SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk reiterated his causes for founding his revolutionary company. Musk’s ambitious goal envisions the creation of a colony on Mars, an “insurance coverage”, he said, where humanity would be protected from existential dangers.
Starship is capable of doing that. It’s capable of getting a million tonnes to the surface of Mars and creating a self-sustaining city and I think we should try to do that as soon as we can.Elon Musk
The critical threshold for Mars is to have a city that is self-sustaining, Musk said, recognising the difficulty of the ambition and even acknowledging that “if any ingredient is missing”, however minor it may be, the city would die out. If Earth stops sending shuttles to Mars, Musk envisioned, a colony on the red planet could be in jeopardy.
3. Space tourism
While Musk is betting on the incredible features of Starship to settle a human colony on Mars, his well-acclaimed rocket is also eyeing space tourism, having a scheduled mission for 2022. Starship could take perhaps 100 people on an orbital trip, or a smaller number even further and in greater luxury. In addition, Musk’s flagship rocket is also advancing his satellite communications business, Starlink.