Elon Musk: SpaceX Starship rocket close to launch in orbit

spaceX starship raptor orbit

Starship is SpaceX’s most ambitious project to date.

At just under 120m (390ft) in height, the new SpaceX rocket system is the biggest ever.

The platform’s SN8 prototype was tested in December, marking the first time that an upper-stage test rocket flew to a high altitude from the company’s facilities in Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX hoped to roll out SN9 within a week, but it was damaged in an accident and the company had to delay its testing.

The SN8 achieved most of its test objectives , managing to reach the tests desired altitude, flipping horizontally and then returned to a vertical orientation, and transferring the fuel flow to the Raptor engines from the main to secondary tanks. 

SpaceX currently has plans to launch the first ever private lunar mission in 2023. Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa will be taken in a fly-by of the Moon in a week-long journey.

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Thursday’s presentation was the first formal update Mr Musk had given on the progress of Starship’s development in two years, boasting it as the “holy grail” of space travel.

Musk opened his presentation with a defense of the value of space transportation, calling it necessary for “establishing security for life itself and having an exciting future and inspiring kids about the future.”

Musk said. “We are talking about a rocket that’s more than twice the mass and thrust of a Saturn V [rocket that launched the Apollo moon missions], and is also designed to be fully reusable … for a development cost that is, I don’t know, between five and 10% of the Saturn V.”

The main technical hurdle for Starship currently is its second generation of Raptor engines, which power the rocket and its booster. Each Starship requires seven Raptor engines, and each Super Heavy booster has 33 engines.

Musk emphasises that the location gives a clear path to orbit, given the need to launch eastward to “have help from Earth’s rotation.” It also features a “good clear area” that is sparsely populated.

“That doesn’t actually leave a lot of options. It’s basically here and Cape Canaveral” in Florida, Musk said.