Over the last 60 years, Earthlings have witnessed improbable successes in the field of rocketry, science and astronomy.
We’ve literally put a probe into interstellar space (thank you, Voyager 2) where it is still sending back reading of what it sees out there. Let that sink in.
We’ve put humans on the moon. We’ve put multiple pieces of equipment and rovers on Mars. News of something else getting to the red planet is almost overlooked, unthinkably, in light of other current events or happenings.
We’ve landed crafts on Venus and, just recently, have taken samples from asteroids and returned them to Earth. We’re not just bordering on the realm of science fiction, we’ve already entered it.
And yet, attention and hype seem to have plateaued. Maybe a large part of it is the glacially slow pace that NASA and its associated cohorts have made with regards to rockets, the price tags in the billions of dollars range and the overall not-so-good reputation of government red tape being slathered all over these projects which were supposed to fundamentally alter the shape of our future.
You’re well aware by now that SpaceX is revolutionary for several reasons. First, it’s a completely private company and the only four entities that have put astronauts into orbit aboard their rockets are the United States’, Chinese and Russian government-sponsored programs, and SpaceX. That alone is remarkable.
Prior to 2015, no one had ever landed their own rocket booster successfully for reuse. SpaceX has now done it 68 times.
The Starship program that is rapidly transforming a remote strip of land in South Texas has goals that will make the Falcon 9’s progress and all that came before it, as impressive and groundbreaking as it was, pale in comparison.
Starship isn’t just aiming to be the first ever reusable two-stage human/cargo transport system ever (revolutionary in and of itself), it’s doing it at warp-speed when compared to its competitors.
While Starship’s genesis stretches back to 2015 when it was still in the ideation phase of Elon Musk’s considerable brain, the last year-and-a-half have seen amazingly fast process. SpaceX has successfully built eight prototypes, flown two of them to 150 meters, and today had a successful launch with their fully built-out version of the second stage to 12.5 kilometers. Not to mention, it has established a production cadence that has seven other prototypes right behind this one (dubbed SN8 for Starship Number 8) should it not survive the testing. Also, it has begun production on the mammoth booster section that will assist in getting Starship to the moon, Mars and beyond.
Musk has described prototyping as the easy part of developing something, but building the “machine that builds the machine” as the trick, and arguably the hardest aspect. The real thing to be excited about with Starship and the future it will unlock are how quickly it is being developed and improved, not replicated.
Eagle-eyed observers near the Boca Chica facility have spotted components of parts ranging all the way up to SN16 with surely more to come in the near future.
It’s hard for the casual observer to really appreciate what is happening here in 2020 when feeds refresh every three seconds and news is curated/delivered in even less time. Starship’s fundamental design will change the cost of delivering people and cargo into space, which figures to change the economics of a dormant industry like we’ve never seen.
Innovation, speed, and improvement. SpaceX has established a pattern with nearly every craft it has developed and Starship appears to be the company’s and Musk’s 9th symphony.