SpaceX's Starship, the giant stainless steel rocket under construction at a facility in Texas, is shaping up to be one giant machine. A concept render highlighted by CEO Elon Musk Tuesday has captured the sheer scale of this machine in new detail.
The fully-reusable rocket is designed to send humans to Mars and beyond, with the impressive ability to send up to 100 people into space at once. When paired with the Super Heavy booster that enables it to leave the Earth, the whole construction is set to measure nearly 400 feet – the exact figure being in flux as development continues. On Tuesday, Musk praised on Twitter a rendering of the full construction completed by South Australia-based Alex Delderfield:
"Pretty close," Musk wrote in response to the concept render. "It will look absurdly tall & have a lot more ground support equipment."
"I don't think enough people fully appreciate exactly how massive this vehicle is," Delderfield wrote in response. "Both in terms of scale and what it will go on to achieve for humankind."
The images demonstrate just how massive the full ship will look in reality. Musk first unveiled the predecessor to the Starship, dubbed BFR at the time, back in September 2017. The goal was to create a ship that could replace older rockets like Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy while also powering ambitious ideas like a manned mission to Mars. This all-purpose rocket would prove more economical as it could take on more of SpaceX's day-to-day tasks. It could take on its first commercial mission in 2021.
But while the Starship is set to take on Falcon-like tasks, it will tower over its predecessors with an incredible scale. Take a look at the Falcon 9, SpaceX's most common rocket that it uses for satellite launches. The Falcon 9 measures just under 230 feet in height, with a diameter of 12 feet:
Then compare to the Falcon Heavy, which has the same height but a diameter of 40 feet. At a liftoff thrust of over five million pounds of force, it's the most powerful operational rocket in the world. It first went into operation in February 2018, when it made headlines by sending Musk's red Tesla Roadster into space. Note the people on the hill in the lower right that help provide a sense of scale:
Then compare to Delderfield's renders, where the ship has nearly double the height:
The Starship is shaping up to be SpaceX's most impressive project ever. The first full-size prototype of the ship was unveiled in September 2019 at a press conference in Texas, where Musk explained how the team planned to fly a full-size prototype before moving onto more ambitious plans. The ship itself measures nine meters in diameter and 160 feet in height, packing six Raptor engines to fly.
But the Super Heavy booster could upgrade the ship from "pretty cool" to "jaw-dropping." The booster is expected to pack 31 Raptor engines and measure somewhere around 220 feet. This figure is in flux as Musk explained in March 2020 the design is "evolving rapidly." The booster is expected to provide 16 million pounds of force.
A photo shared by Musk earlier this month brought the sheer size of the rocket to light. A single, tiny Raptor engine was perched underneath the "SN4" prototype ahead of a static test firing. The successful firing following the photo paves the way for the first "hop test," where a full-size ship will fly 500 feet into the air.
The Inverse analysis – Starship is set to tower over SpaceX's previous rockets, with a stainless steel exterior that makes it look like a futuristic bullet piercing through the sky. Concepts like these help visualize just how staggering this ship will look on a hot afternoon in the desert, ready to lift off and explore the universe. But it may take the first commercial launch to really demonstrate how this ship will look glistening in the sun. The future of space travel is set to look decidedly cool.