The Starship, SpaceX's under-construction stainless steel ship, looks set to transport humans further than ever before. The ship is designed to transport humans to Mars and help start a city, and a new visualization helps put this feat into perspective.
On Sunday, a YouTube user called "SpaceX - KSP" uploaded footage of a simulation that shows the Starship leaving Mars and returning to Earth. The two minutes and 38-second video demonstrates how the ship would leave the red planet after the humans had successfully completed their first mission.
The footage helps visualize perhaps one of SpaceX's most groundbreaking missions. First outlined in September 2017 by CEO Elon Musk, the Starship is designed to transport up to 100 people or 150 tons into space at once. The fully-reusable rocket is intended for use on a future crewed Mars mission, with the ambitious goal of sending the first humans as early as 2024 and establishing a full-blown city by 2050.
Alongside the ship itself, the fan-made video also shows the retractable solar panels, which SpaceX demonstrated in concept art back in 2017:
It uses liquid oxygen and methane as its fuels, unlike current SpaceX rockets like the Falcon 9 that use rocket propellant as their fuel. That means humans would be able to land on Mars and use techniques like the Sabatier process to harvest more fuel and return home. This would also enable humans to venture out further, creating a planet-hopping network of fuel depots.
The video also demonstrates how Musk's plan has energized the fan community. Communities like Reddit, Twitter and YouTube have enabled creative fans to produce incredible concepts and renders of these bold missions in action. Recent examples include Twitter user "Neopork85"'s Starship render and artist Kimi Talvitie's concept of the landing feet.
"SpaceX - KSP" used the Kerbal Space Program video game to simulate the return flight. The 2011 game is designed to enable players to complete their own rocket flights, transporting little aliens known as "kerbals" to new destinations. It's attracted the attention of NASA, and Musk himself has written that he's looking forward to the upcoming sequel.
The game's developer, Squad, has also participated in the community. Ahead of SpaceX's first crewed Crew Dragon flight, the team challenged players to simulate the upcoming mission via the game and submit the best footage through Twitter. The team shared the best ones on May 26, showing fans from around the world sharing their best creations.
"SpaceX - KSP"'s latest video is a sequel to a previous render that garnered widespread attention. A previous video, uploaded on July 1, shows the Starship launching from Earth, refueling in space, and flying to Mars. The video also shows the Super Heavy booster, a previously-announced addition to the Starship that will enable it to leave Earth's gravity well. The video was a smash hit, receiving over 400,000 views at the time of writing.
SpaceX is currently developing the Starship at its Boca Chica facility in Texas. The team's next major step is expected to be completing a static fire of a full-size prototype rocket, before moving on to a hop test.
The Inverse analysis – The video shows the passion of fans in the emergent new space race. Spaceflight largely slipped away from the public after the sixties-era space race, but fans regularly express their optimism that new players in the area are pushing the potential for human exploration.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of this new race is how many ideas feel like science fiction. As community member "Neopork85" told Inverse this month, "the sci-fi futures that I had been promised - with huge space stations and colonies on other celestial bodies - might actually come true."