SpaceX Prepares to Launch Its Starship Mega-Rocket Into Orbit
SpaceX is preparing to launch its Starship mega-rocket into orbit for the first time, kicking off Elon Musk's ambitious scheme to eventually build an independent human settlement on Mars. The planned mission, which doesn’t yet have a firm launch date, is part of a rigorous test program that SpaceX hopes will end in success.
In a call with Morgan Stanley on March 7, Musk said, “I think it's got, I don't know, hopefully about a 50% chance of reaching orbit.” He also added that SpaceX is building multiple Starship rockets and that overall, there's an 80% chance one of them will reach orbit this year.
The 400-foot-tall Starship rocket will be the most powerful rocket ever to fly, featuring about 2.5 times more thrust at liftoff than NASA's iconic Saturn V. It is designed to carry people and cargo to and from space, or to fixed points around the world, and it can lift up to 100 tons; as a comparison, a C-17 aircraft can carry about 85 tons of cargo.
Elon Musk anticipates that the cost of a single Starship launch will be reduced to $1 million in the near future, compared to the current estimated cost of $10 million. The cost of launching the company's smaller Falcon 9 rocket is approximately $62 million.
NASA found Starship's promise of reusability and strength to be alluring, thus selecting it to transport astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972.
The company has already tested Starship prototypes at various altitudes, beginning with Starhopper in 2019 and the SN5, SN6 and SN8 in 2020. The SN15 prototype flew to a height of 10 kilometers in April 2021 and was the first to successfully land back on the launch pad.
The history of SpaceX's suborbital test flights suggests that, should the rocket fail to reach orbit, an explosion would likely be the cause, even though it was not explicitly stated.
The launch, if successful, will be the world's first fully reusable orbital rocket. This will set the stage for SpaceX to revolutionize the economy in orbit.
0. “Elon Musk hints Starship rocket may explode on first orbital launch” Business Insider, 13 Mar. 2023, https://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musk-estimates-spacex-starship-first-launch-odds-success-explosion-2023-3
1. “SpaceX mission may herald era of low-cost, reliable space transport” C4ISRNET, 9 Mar. 2023, https://www.c4isrnet.com/battlefield-tech/space/2023/03/09/spacex-mission-may-herald-era-of-low-cost-reliable-space-transport/
2. “Elon Musk says next SpaceX rocket only has 50% chance of success but it ‘won't be boring'” UNILAD, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.unilad.com/technology/elon-musk-says-spacex-launch-wont-be-boring-087883-20230314
3. “A Complete History of SpaceX's Starship, the Rocket Designed to Take Us to Mars” Observer, 8 Mar. 2023, https://observer.com/2023/03/a-complete-history-of-spacexs-starship-the-rocket-designed-to-take-us-to-mars/
4. “Elon Musk: Starship has a 50/50 chance of reaching orbit on first try” Interesting Engineering, 9 Mar. 2023, https://interestingengineering.com/innovation/elon-musk-starship-has-a-50-50-chance-of-reaching-orbit-on-first-try
5. “Elon Musk says there's a 50% chance SpaceX's Starship rocket could EXPLODE during launch” Daily Mail, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-11858339/Elon-Musk-says-theres-50-chance-SpaceXs-Starship-rocket-EXPLODE-launch.html