On the 11-year anniversary of launching its first rocket to orbit, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk highlighted progress on the private space company’s newest spacecraft Starship. Musk says the towering spaceship will launch from Kennedy Space Center in the next few years, carrying humans to the moon, Mars and beyond.
The big update happened Saturday evening in front of the Starship prototype, known as MK 1, at SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas, about 30 minutes from Brownsville. MK 1 which was standing along side the company’s first rocket, Falcon 1.
Ahead of Musk’s talk cranes were used to hoist Falcon 1 next to the 180-foot-tall Starship to showcase just how far the private space company has come in the past decade.
Musk said Saturday while standing in front of Starship and Falcon 1 that if the Sept. 28, 2008 launch hadn't succeeded that would have been the end of SpaceX.
"This is, I think, the most inspiring thing that I’ve ever seen," Musk said of Starship MK 1 behind him.
In the years since, SpaceX has overcome much skepticism to earn government and military launch contracts for Falcon 9, which replaced Falcon 1.
Falcon 9 would also become the first partially reusable rocket. In December 2015, SpaceX successfully landed a Falcon 9 booster on landing and less than a year later landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic.
Now, SpaceX is building a new spaceship that Musk says will take humans to the moon, Mars and beyond. Starship will launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, the same complex where Saturn V launched Apollo 11 to the moon.
Musk said Saturday that the reason for the Starship update was to inspire and get people excited about the future of space exploration.
“The critical breakthrough that’s needed for us to be a space-faring civilization is to make space travel like air travel and that will require rapidly reusable rockets,” Musk said.
Here are three takeaways from Musk's update Saturday.
When will we see Starship in orbit and launching from where
Musk said the 180-foot-tall MK 1 Starship will fly 65,000 feet and land in one to two months in the first of a series of test flights or “hops.”
Musk also said SpaceX plans to begin building a third spaceship, Starship Mk 3, next month.
"We are going to be building both ships and boosters both at Boca and the Cape," Musk said, adding the rate at which SpaceX will build spaceships "will be quite crazy by space standards."
Musk said he could see reaching orbit in less than six months. He also said the first crewed flight could happen from the Texas site and not Kennedy Space Center.
Refueling in space is critical to moon, Mars travel
SpaceX shared new video renderings of Starship in space. refueling for deep-space travel. The SpaceX founder said orbital refueling is a critical step for establishing a moon or Mars base.
Starship will be the most powerful rocket in history, capable of carrying humans to the Moon, Mars, and beyond pic.twitter.com/LloN8AQdei— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 29, 2019
"It's actually harder to dock with the space station than orbital refueling," Musk said.
Design changes and landing
The Starship body is made up of stainless steel and will have a heat shield made up of rugged ceramic tiles for maximum heating areas. The tiles will be fully reusable and low maintenance, according to SpaceX.
The large fins on Starship are not for steering or aerodynamics but are simply landing legs, Musk said.
The Super Heavy booster Starship will have up to 37 Raptor engines, but no less than 24, according to Musk. The mega booster will have twice the thrust of the Saturn V rocket that launched humans to the moon.
"I think we should really do our very best to become a multi planet species and we should do it now," Musk said.
SpaceX also shared new renderings showing what a Starship landing would look like when it returns to Earth carrying passengers.
Starship serves as a large, long-duration spacecraft capable of carrying passengers or cargo to Earth orbit, planetary destinations, and between destinations on Earth pic.twitter.com/NoNoOjBW50— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 29, 2019
Rewatch Musk's update below: