Starship is the largest spaceship ever built: for its design, and for the various tests that will hopefully lead SpaceX and humanity to the Moon and Mars, a city has even been created from scratch.
The headquarters of Starship its name is Starbase, and it is located in Boca Chica, in South Texas. first static test of the motors.
And it is at Starbase that it becomes clearer every day why the Elon Musk is a madness, one of those able to change the course of events forever.
Starship: the door of humanity open to Mars
The design of a super-heavy load launch vehicle capable of flying beyond Earth’s orbit and taking humans to the Moon and Mars began in 2012, in the SpaceX offices.
Elon Musk’s well-known method – “fail fast to succeed faster” – has led to countless changes of name, technologies, engines, materials and landing systems. In short: the first partial prototype of Starship, StarHopper, was completed in 2019, and we are already at prototype number 20.
It is difficult to imagine faster progress, especially if you think aboutiterative approach always supported by the design engineer of the largest spacecraft ever built, Dr. Elon Musk.
Although the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is currently awaiting the decision on the possibility of proceeding with the first orbital flight, expected by the end of 2021, the Starship project is at a turning point.
The idea of carbon fiber set aside for more solid stainless steel, only to discover that without the special hexagonal tiles the spacecraft would have had no chance of surviving a re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, today Starship is almost complete.
NASA has selected a particular version of Starship as one of the moon landing systems provided by the Artemis program. But Elon Musk’s spacecraft, in addition to being a true aerospace engineering monster with its 120 meters high, adopts solutions never seen before in the field of space exploration and rocket construction.
The “follies” of Starship
As the well-known Falcon9, and according to one of SpaceX’s explicit priorities, Starship will be completely reusable. And we come to the first madness of Emperor Musk: to ensure rapid reuse of the ship once it returns to Earth, SpaceX is building giant robotic wands able to “pick it up” on return to immediately place it back on its booster already loaded with fuel.
The huge robotic plant, which weighs over 100 tons and is currently making its gradual appearance on the Starbase launch pad, is called Mechazilla and will have – as far as we know, huge robotic arms capable of hooking and unhooking Starship when needed. Elon Musk talks about an approach that aims to equal the comfort and safety of air travel, a bit like Virgin Galactic’s much humbler design intentions.
But how will Starship return to Earth to finally be embraced by Mechazilla’s robotic grasp? Belly. Let’s forget for a moment the classic image of the rocket reentering the Earth’s atmosphere: SpaceX thought differently.
Starship’s landing maneuver involves a “tumble over”: at about 500 meters high, the spacecraft positions itself horizontally, to return to a vertical position only a few meters above the ground and land upright, like the Falcon9.
The overturning maneuver has been the subject of various tests, among the most evocative visions ever offered by the renewed space race, and it is a unique maneuver – of a complexity never experienced in the aerospace industry, especially if you think it is associated with the system of “Mechazilla collection”.
But the brilliant madness of Elon Musk does not stop: for Starship, “classic” engines will not be used that make the space vehicles already in use travel, but 31 Raptor engines – obviously still being tested. SpaceX’s Raptor could become the first methane orbital engine to pass the experimental phase. A record in records.
Starship is designed for long-term space flights, for transport to the Moon and Mars, for commercial long-distance travel on Earth, for orbiting the Moon and for refueling in space and returning to Mars.
Starship is literally madness: a compendium of unprecedented technologies so original as to suggest some suggestions from AI and colleagues, a project still under development that could quickly and forever change space exploration, and open up to concrete possibility of reaching in the next decades the status, often evoked by Musk, of ainterplanetary humanity.