Starship and Super Heavy are the biggest, most important piece of Elon Musk's grand plan for SpaceX, his private spaceflight company. Musk has repeatedly stressed that he founded SpaceX back in 2002 primarily to help humanity colonize Mars. It's vital that we become a multiplanet species, the billionaire entrepreneur has said, citing both a much-reduced probability of extinction and the thrill that meaningful space exploration will deliver to billions of people around the world. SpaceX is now actively to turn this sci-fi dream into reality. The company is developing a 100-passenger spaceship called Starship and a giant rocket known as Super Heavy, which together constitute the transporation system taht Musk thinks will bring Mars settlement within reach at long last."This is the fastest path to a self-sustaining city on Mars," Musk said in September 2019, during a webcast update about the Starship-Super Heavy architecture. These updates have become a higly anticipated annual tradition; Musk has given one every September since 2016. During that first presentation, he laid out the basic idea: A large spacecraft into Earth orbit, then come back down to Earth for a vertical, propulsive landing. The spaceship meanwhile, will make its own way from Earth orbit to Mars(or the moon, or any other desired destination). The craft will touch down on such alien worlds and take off from them as well, without the need for any addition landing craft or ascent vehicles.(The separate rocket is needed just to get out of Earth's substantial gravity well.) Off-Earth refuling of the ship is therefore key to Musk's vision. For example, spacecraft coming home from Mars or the moon will need to be topped up on those worlds, using locally produced propellant. In 2016, Musk called this architecture the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). The name was new, as the billionaire had previously referred to his envisioned concept(through much more vaguely) as the Mars Colonial Transporter. The ITS will stand 400 feet (122 meters) tell when stacked, Musk said back then. The rocket will contribute most of that height, measuring 254 feet (77 meters) tall to the ship's 162 feet (49m). There will be some overlap of the two vehicles during stacking, which explains why the total height isn't 416 feet.
Musk did not lay out plans for building this city. That will happen organically as more and more people arrive on Mars, he said that comparing the ITS to the transcontinental railroad that helped open the American west to settlement from the East and Midwest in the 19th century. And these pioneers won't just be the super-rich, if all goes according to plan. the ITS's reusability could eventually bring the peice of a Mars trip down enough to make it affordable for large numbers of people, Musk said. "The architecture allows for a cost per ticket of less than $200,000," Musk said during the 2016 presentation. "We think that the cost of moving to Mars ultimately could drop below $100,000." This overall vision has held firm over the past three years, but Musk has repeatedly tweaked the design and the system's name. In 2017, for example, he announced that ITS was the now the BFR, which stood for "Big Falcon Rocket". The BFR was shorter, slimmer and less powerful that its designed predecessor, measuring 348 feet (106 m) tall by 30 feet (9 m) wide then stacked and featuring "only" 31 Raptor engines on the booster and six on the spaceship. But the biggest change concerned use of the spaceship-rocket duo. Musk announced that SpaceX eventually planned to emply the BFR for all of its spaceflight needs, from launching satellites to ferrying people to and from Mars to cleaning up space junk in Earth orbit. The Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy therefore will be phased out over the long haul, as will both the crew and cargo variants of SpaceX's Dragon capsule. Expanding the BFR's role in this manner will make the system much for affordable for SpaceX to develop and manufacture, Musk said at the time. "If we can do that, then all the resources that are used for Falcon 9, Heavy and Dragon can be applied to this system. That's really fundamental, he said in September 2017. "We believe that we can do this with the revenue we receive for launching satellites and for servicing the space station. The BFR design then experienced a growth spurt that nearly took the system back to its original height. In September 2018, Musk told us that the rocket-spaceship due will new stand 387 feet (118 m) tall when stacked. The BFR ship will also sport seven Raptors instead of six, Musk added, and the vehicle will now sport four movable fins - two near its nose and two bigger ones near the tail.
These fins will help the ship maneuver its way to safe landings on worlds with significant atmospheres, such as Mars and Earth. The two rear fins will also serve as landing pads, as will a lag that's stylized to look like a fin, Musk said. The ship's overall aesthetic will therefore resemble that of the rocket used by the cartoon character Tintin in the 1954 adventure "Explorers on the Moon." And that tidbit pleases Musk. "I love the Tintin rocket design, so I kind of wanted to bias it towards that," he said at the time. "If in doubt, go with Tintin." Other big news came out of the September 2018 update as well: SpaceX had signed it's first BFR customer. Japanese billionare Yusaku Maezawa booked a round-the-moon trip on the BFR, with a target launch date of 2023. Maezawa said he planned to take a handful of artists with him on the mission which he calls DearMoon. Neither SpaceX nor Maezawa has revealed how much the flight will cost. Two months later, the BFR was no more: Musk told us that the system will now be called Starship. that will also be the spaceship's name, whereas the huge rocket will be called the Super Heavy. At that point, SpaceX still planned to but the Starship vehicle out of carbon fiber. But in January 2019, Musk announced that he was switching to stainless steel. Steel is a bit heavier than carbon fiber but has great thermal properties and is far, far cheaper, Musk said. He has since called the material switch the biggest design change yet made on the ITS/BFR/Starship project. In May 2019, Musk said the current plan calls for six Raptors on the Starship vehicle rather than seven. And a few months later, he tweeted that Super Heavy will now sport 35 Raptors instead of 31. That brings us to the latest design update, which Musk presented on Sept. 28, 2019, from SpaceX's South Texas facility, near the tiny village of Boca Chica. the billionare didn't announce any huge changes, though there was some more engine news: Super Heavy will now have space for 37 Raptors, though not all of those slots will be filled on every flight. Each mission will probably require at least 24 Raptors on the booster, Musk said. Musk had previously estimated the total deevelopment cost of the Starship project to be between $2 billion and $10 billion. On Sept. 28, he said he now believes the price tag for SpaceX will be toward the lower end of that range - "probably closer to two or three[billion] than it is to 10," Musk told CNN Business during an interview shortly after the design update.
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