Starship, SpaceX’s under-development rocket for sending humans to Mars, is impressive both inside and out.
On Tuesday, freelance 3D artist Caspar Stanley shared on Twitter his render of an internal component of SpaceX’s vehicle. The image shows a dazzling octopus-like array of tubes emanating from the center, connecting down to 28 Raptor engines located below. The render shows the engine setup for the Super Heavy booster, which will work with the Starship itself to lift the ship away from the Earth.
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The image received a response from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who wrote: “Lot of plumbing!”
The image reveals one of the most interesting components of SpaceX’s Starship. Musk first revealed the predecessor to this ship back in 2017 under the name “BFR,” explaining how it’s designed to both replace SpaceX’s existing rockets like Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, while powering more ambitious missions like a visit to Mars.
The ship has three key features that make it ideal for visits to Mars:
- It’s fully reusable, which means it can land on Mars and fly again.
- It uses liquid oxygen and methane for fuel, which means astronauts can harvest resources from Mars, like water ice and carbon dioxide, and use them to create more fuel to return home.
- It can launch over 150 tons or 100 people to space at a time, meaning it can carry the large amount of equipment required to build those early refueling bases.
Stanley, a 21-year-old based in Denmark, hosted a live stream of his creative process on YouTube:
During the stream, he explained how he used a NASASpaceflight video as inspiration. The footage, captured by a website reporter that goes by the name “BocaChicaGal,” shows what is believed to be the propellant manifold for the Super Heavy booster. This feeds methane fuel to the Raptor engines from the downward pipe.
When will Super Heavy fly?
SpaceX has hosted five high-altitude flight tests with the ship portion of the Starship, but it has never flown the Super Heavy booster. That could all change this year, after a document earlier this month detailed plans to host Starship’s first orbital flight.
The flight, expected in the latter half of this year, will launch the Starship with its booster from the firm’s Texas launch site. Just under two minutes after liftoff, the booster will separate and land in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship will come to a stop around 60 miles off the coast of Hawaii, around 90 minutes after liftoff.
The Inverse analysis — Musk’s response to the fan render highlights his support of the SpaceX fan community. Previous renders have focused on the Super Heavy booster stacked high, the Starship carrying Starlink satellites, and its ability to support lunar landings.
SpaceX has also found itself at the heart of two upcoming reality TV shows, set to award lucky contestants a place on a Crew Dragon capsule flight. As the Starship is expected to host a trip around the Moon in 2023, Musk’s current approach to public engagement could be a sign of things to come.
THE STARSHIP’S JOURNEY, SUMMARIZED:
- November 2018 — BFR, first announced in September 2017, gets renamed to Starship.
- December 2018 — Musk confirms the new ship has switched to stainless steel.
- January 2019 — Shortened “Starhopper” prototype unveiled and Musk explains the switch to steel.
- February 2019 — Raptor engine beats a long-standing rocket record.
- April 2019 — Starhopper completes a tethered “hop.”
- July 2019 — Starhopper launches 20 meters (67 feet).
- August 2019 — Starhopper launches 150 meters (500 feet).
- September 2019 — Starship Mk.1 full-size prototype unveiled.
- May 2020 — Starship SN4 full-size prototype completes a static test fire.
- August 2020 — SN5 launches 150 meters (500 feet).
- October 2020 — SN8 completes the first triple-Raptor static fire.
- December 2020 — SN8 launches 12.5 kilometers (41,000 feet) and crashes into the ground.
- February 2021 — SN9 launches 10 kilometers (33,000 feet) and crashes into the ground.
- March 2021 — SN10 launches 10 kilometers (33,000 feet), lands, and explodes eight minutes later. That same month, SN11 launches 10 kilometers (33,000 feet) and hits the ground in several pieces.
- May 2021 — SN15 launches 10 kilometers (33,000 feet) and lands without a hitch, except for a small fire at the base.
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