The Mk1 spacecraft will begin altitude testing in the coming weeks
American businessman Elon Musk has given a new update on his Starship and Super Heavy rocket system.
He plans to use the new vehicles to send people to the moon and Mars, as well as to move them quickly across Earth.
SpaceX's CEO is in the process of building prototypes and plans to start using them in the coming months.
The Mk1 version of its starship will begin altitude testing in the next one to two months, he said.
"This is the most inspiring thing I've ever seen," the businessman told an audience gathered at the company's facilities in Boca Chica, Texas, where the prototype was assembled.
"So this will take off, fly to 65,000 feet, about 20 km, and come back and land. So this giant thing, it will be really epic to see this thing take off and back."
The 50 m high craft will eventually fly over its booster, the Super Heavy.
A first test flight of this booster, carrying an Mk3 spacecraft, could go into orbit next year, Musk said.
"This is going to sound totally crazy, but I think we want to try to orbit in less than six months. As long as the design and manufacturing improvement rate remains exponential, I think it takes within a few months."
Both parts of the new rocket system, which together will be 118m high on the launch pad, are being designed to be fully reusable, making propulsive landings at the end of their mission.
Musk is known for his aggressive programming, which even has a name: "Elon time".
Scheduling often fails, but eventually it delivers.
Musk regularly updates the development of the new rocket system. He wants these future vehicles to replace his current fleet – Falcon 9 and his biggest cousin, Falcon Heavy.
He already has a client in the books for a Starship flight – Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who wants to go around the moon and back with a group of artists.
Speaking at the Boca Chica event, the CEO outlined his latest thoughts on material use, changes in aerodynamic surfaces and the progress being made with the Raptor methane-burning engines that will power both Star Ship and Super Heavy.
The head of SpaceX explained that his switch to using stainless steel over carbon fiber in Starfleet construction was partly reduced to cost. Steel is $ 2,500 per ton, while carbon fiber is $ 130,000 per ton.
But he also defended the steel's performance at low and high temperatures.
The spacecraft will feature heat-resistant "glass" tiles in areas that are likely to experience the highest temperatures during a descent back into the atmosphere.
He also pointed to the four fins – two at the front and two at the rear – that will help control this reentry; and for Raptor engines. The Mk1 prototype has three, but the operating versions will have six.
The Super Heavy booster, on the other hand, can have up to 37 extraordinary Raptors, all firing in unison.
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Musk will be using Cape Canaveral in Florida for some releases, but Boca Chica also appears in his flight plans.
This, he acknowledges, would mean a considerable disruption to local residents, and SpaceX is trying to buy them.
"We made an offer to that effect," he said.
Musk has been criticized in the past for becoming obsessed with going to Mars when there are many issues that need attention here on Earth.
He told the audience that the problems on our planet were not a reason to stop looking abroad.
"There are a lot of problems in the world, of course, and these things are important and we need to solve them. But we also need things that make us excited to be alive, that make us happy to wake up in the morning and get fired. About the future and to think so, the future will be great. Space exploration is one of those things. "
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US space agency manager Jim Bridenstine released an interesting tweet the day before the Boca Chica event, in which he said he hoped the same enthusiasm shown by the spacecraft would not distract SpaceX from NASA's business.
The company is hired to deliver a Falcon rocket and a Dragon capsule system capable of bringing astronauts to the space station. This system is several years late.
Asked to respond to the tweet, Musk said Star Ship and its Super Heavy booster were using less than 5% of SpaceX's resources.
"Our resources are predominantly about Falcon and Dragon, especially the Dragon team," he emphasized.