In September 2016, Musk treated the world to the peak of the initial sneak in the proposed super heavy launch vehicle. Previously known as Mars Colonial Transporter, the name is changed Interplanetary Transportation System (ITS) is the center of Musk's long-term vision for commercial trips to orbit, to the Moon, and even to Mars. Since then, mission architecture and even the name of the system have changed several times.
For example, in September 2017 – during a presentation entitled "Making Life Interplanetary" – Musk presented the world with an updated design launch system, which had been renamed Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) and Large Falcon Spaceship (BFS). And recently, Musk announced the system will then be known as "Starship", and the rocket "Super heavy"
This announcement was made earlier this week (on November 19) through Musk's Twitter account. As he said at the time, "Replacing BFR to Starship", followed by "Technically, two parts: Starship is a spaceship / upper stage & Super heavy is a rocket booster that is needed to escape the deep gravity of the Earth (not needed for planets or other moons) ".
Technically, two parts: Starship is a spacecraft / upper stage & Super Heavy is a rocket booster needed to escape Earth's gravity properly (not needed for planets or other moons)
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 20, 2018
This announcement comes on the heels of Musk showing that the previous plan to make the second stage Falcon 9 reusable is being removed to focus on development Starship. "Btw, SpaceX no longer plans to upgrade the second phase of Falcon 9 to be reused," he said tweeted on November 17. "Speed up the BFR instead. The new design is very interesting! Fun counter-intuitive. "
Before that (on November 7) Musk tweeted that his company would build a miniature, winged version of Starship to test the design. This Mini-Starship, he said, will be launched above a Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy rocket as early as June 2019 (which is expected to coincide with the launch of the first batch of the Starlink SpaceX satellite).
While Musk did not reveal new details about the design for the spacecraft, it is safe to say that it would resemble an updated scheme that restated Musk in September. At that time, during a press conference at SpaceX headquarters in California, Musk shared who the first passenger on the BFR would be – Japanese fashion innovator / curator, Yusaku Maezawa, and a group of artists.
This mission, which is intended to help fund the development of super heavy launch vehicles, is scheduled to take place in 2023 and will be the first private passenger flight. This mission will last a full week and will involve a Spaceship that does the flyby of the Moon – approaching as close as 200 km (125 miles) from the surface – before returning to Earth.
That Starship intended to finally replace Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles, and is projected to cost around $ 5 billion USD to build. As Musk has pointed out several times in the past, the completed system will be used to carry out moon tour flights around the Moon, and also for the benefit of commercial transportation between major cities.
Nevertheless, the final goal of Starship is to make regular flights to Mars and facilitate the construction of permanent human settlements there. In September, Musk gave a recent view of what his base (called Mars Base Alpha) would look like. When asked when this base could become a reality, he tweeted"Maybe 2028 for the base to be built."
At present, SpaceX hopes to conduct the first suborbital trial flight Starship in the coming year while Musk has stated that he hopes to start cargo flights as early as 2022, followed by the first flight to Mars in 2024. As stated on their website:
"The aim of the first mission was to ensure water resources, identify hazards, and implement power infrastructure, mining and early life support. The second mission, with cargo and crew, is targeted for 2024, with the main goal of building a propellant depot and preparing for future crew flights. The ships from this initial mission will also function as the beginning of the first Mars base, from which we can build a developing city and finally an independent civilization on Mars. "
This is a busy year for Musk and the company he founded with the intention of reviving space exploration, and not all good news. But when it comes to the steps his company took with their super heavy launch vehicle (now known as Starship, maybe something else later), Musk has managed to inspire and capture the imagination of countless people throughout the planet.
Even if there are bumps along the road or the timeline needs to be revised, there is no shortage of people who want him to succeed.
Further reading: BBC