This weekend on Twitter, Elon Musk delivered fantastic news for fans of his SpaceX company.
Only when the 21st rocket launch of the year happened on Saturday did he reveal that construction of a prototype for a Mars spaceship – Starship – is now underway at the company’s Texas launch site.
But that’s not all. The first round of experimental launches, called the ‘’test hopper’’, should be completed by spring.
Both Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell, the president and COO of SpaceX, have said that those ‘’hops’’, or short launches that don’t reach the orbit of such a spaceship prototype, is a very important step towards building the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR. Such a rocket, a colossal two-stage system, is designed to launch 100 people and 150 tons of cargo to the surface of Mars.
However, both of them said recently that those ‘’hops” won’t begin until the end of 2019. It’s probable that cleverness and funding of half a billion dollars has helped the process to speed up a bit.
Starship is designed to be about 30 feet wide and 180 feet tall, and sit atop a roughly 219-foot-tall rocket booster that Musk now calls Super Heavy.
“I will do a full technical presentation of Starship after the test vehicle we’re building in Texas flies, so hopefully March/April,” Musk tweeted on Saturday.
“This test hopper is at full body diameter of 9m / 30 ft, just not full height. Super Heavy will be full height & diameter,” he also added with it signifying that SpaceX won’t build a squat version of Super Heavy but will actually go straight to launching a full-scale booster.
Musk also stated that the test hopper construction was ongoing at SpaceX’s new rocket factory at the Port of Los Angeles.
A launch site for BFR is being developed in Boca Chica, Texas, and locals have already taken several pictures of parts of test hopper arriving on site and being assembled.
The image below is an illustration of test hopper parts against the illustrations of Spaceship.
However, SpaceX hasn’t relieved any further details about the Starship test hopper’s launch schedule and other information (and the images are not confirmed to show the hopper).
Launch schedule and test hopper weren’t the only news revealed on Saturday.
Possible first landings on Mars in 2025
Musk disclosed details about SpaceX’s activities over discussion of metallurgy, or properties and science of metals, for the BFR.
Materials are very important for space vehicles because they need to handle massive temperature and pressure changes, as well as extreme vibration. It’s especially important for Starship because it’s supposed to launch into orbit around Earth, travel for months to Mars, land on its surface, and then launch back home.
Musk showed what it’s supposed to be a ‘’final iteration” of BFR in September. He also announced that the company would be launching Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon in 2023. Musk described the design to be rich with carbon-fiber composite parts.
However, by November, Musk said that the radical changes were coming, even renaming two main parts of BFR system (Starship used to be called “Big Falcon Spaceship” and Super Heavy the “Big Falcon Booster.”). In December, it was reported by Teslarati that SpaceX and NASA were working together to develop a new type of heat shield for Starship.
Because of these changes, it’s now unknown whether SpaceX will manage to meet its timeline for the launch in March. But by October 31, Musk hopes he will use the BFR system to launch the first humans towards the surface of Mars in 6 years time.