SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has suggested that the newly revamped Starship and Super Heavy rockets can do the first integrated launch – putting Starship into orbit – only 12-24 months from today.
Musk shows that the Starship's chances of reaching orbit as early as 2020 are now as high as "60% [and] increasing rapidly ", thank you not a little for the busy radical changes that have been experienced by spacecraft and boosters during 2018.
Probability at 60% & increases rapidly due to new architecture
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 27, 2018
Combined with the decision – announced at the September 2018 media event – to delay the debut of a vacuum-optimized top-level Raptor and continue to use mature sea-level variants, Musk seems confident enough that the dramatic change in this strategy will allow SpaceX to aggressively slash development schedule for the next generation launch vehicle. Interestingly, Musk noted that although this "radical" design change was almost entirely motivated by his desire to accelerate the operational debut of a fully reusable rocket, it turned out to be clear that iterations were cheaper, faster, and easier to actually end (in Musk said in itself, "dramatically better" than exotic carbon composite ancestors.
Time. Although it turned out to be dramatically better too.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 27, 2018
Let there be a bit of doubt – I am still very skeptical of this radical redesign and logics that do not make sense to do a redesign at the last second while maintaining a testing schedule, let alone speeding it up in 6-9 months. Despite the fact that Musk seems to have a convincing rational answer to every question posed so far, he was no less convincing in mid-2016 when he stated with infectious belief that the Fremont Tesla plant would be an "alien alien fighter" that was almost 100% automated " As early as 2018. Of course there is nothing wrong own with mistakes, even though it took 24 months and a few hundred million dollars to realize as much as possible was truly fatal or at least a major health risk for any company that faced such challenges, as was the case with Tesla.
Besides skepticism, there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of SpaceX's Starship / Super Heavy (BFR) program over the next few years. Not only are hot metal structures that have a proven track record of success (recognized in the 1960s and for suborbital conditions, but still), but one and a half centuries humans have made and built steel to function to aggressively reducing risk in developing BFRs, while spacecraft and giant reusable rockets that are mostly made of carbon composites are as exotic, challenging, and foreign as they can be deployed. One step further, Musk seems stuck on the trade, the benefits of switching from composite to stainless steel far far away greater than the cost.
BFS / Starship shows off some of its heat shields. SpaceX might be looking for sophisticated NASA solutions for BFR thermal protection systems. (SpaceX)
BFR – in the 2018 design iteration – seen entering the Martian atmosphere at high speed. (SpaceX)
Starship – in the 2018 design iteration – seen landing on Mars above the Raptor's fire pillar. (SpaceX)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk visited the South Texas site where the first Starship prototype was built on December 23. (Elon Musk)
Starship … or BFWTF? ? (NASASpaceflight / u / bocachicagal)
Most notably, Musk's implication that alloy steel skin – though with regenerative cooling (ie fluids) – can really survive for SpaceX's ablative PICA-X heat shielding technology in Starship which is the least intuitive but logical change. Although alloy steel is possible literally having a significantly higher density than carbon composites, composites cannot (at least in their current state) withstand high temperatures as Starship would certainly experience during orbit and interplanetary reentries. As a result, Starship will require a very sophisticated heat shielding technology that is minimally ablative, very light, strong, and shock resistant, not to mention the additional layers that can attach it to the Starship composite hull while also isolating the tank and propellant structure. from extreme heat re-entering.
The underside side requires nothing, the wind side will be cooled with liquid (cryo) methane, so that a silver liquid will appear even on the hot side
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 25, 2018
Steel, on the other hand, is one of the lowest available thermal conductive metals, while also displaying alloys with melting points that can approach and even exceed 1500 degrees C. With regenerative cooling, it is very possible that hot steel shields and fusion propellant tanks and Load bearing structures can ultimately produce spacecraft that are far more reusable, reliable, and perhaps even high-performance that spacecraft that rely on exotic heat protectors and carbon composite propellant tanks without liners.
Maybe BFR Block 2 or 3 will make room for composite formulations and production methods that are dramatically improved, but advanced steel and other mixed metals seem to be the way forward for SpaceX for now. For now, we can sit, watch and wait something come together at the South Texas company's testing and launch facilities.
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