Starship, SpaceX's under-construction rocket destined for the moon and Mars, is gearing up to take on even bigger launches than ever before. A new fan video render puts the upcoming 20-kilometer jump into perspective.
On Monday, a Twitter user called "C_Bass3d" shared their own video of what the Starship will look like when it takes on this 20-kilometer jump. The one minute and 42 seconds video shows the ship launching from the dusty Texas landscape, soaring in the air and correcting itself before coming in to land. Close-up shots show the three Raptor engines supporting the ship softening the landing, as well as the spider-like landing legs deploying on return.
The video earned big praise from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who regularly interacts with fans via his Twitter account. Musk wrote:
"Very impressive render. Note, legs will be bigger & there’ll be way more stuff in engine bay. Main engines actually do majority of work in turning ship vertical before landing."
The video captures one of the most impressive aspects of the forthcoming Starship tests. SpaceX is currently developing the fully-reusable stainless steel rocket at the Boca Chica facility in Texas. The ultimate goal is to develop a ship that can send 150 tons or 100 people into space at a time, with a liquid oxygen and methane fuel that means humans can visit Mars, refuel using the planet's resources, and return home or venture out further into the solar system.
These flights are key to getting Starship flight-ready. The company hosted a "Starhopper" flight in August 2019 to 150 meters high, with a shortened version of the ship powered by one Raptor engine. This month, SpaceX completed another 150-meter jump with a full-size "SN5" prototype that also featured a single Raptor engine and lacked features like the nosecone expected for the final ship. Musk has explained the company plans to host several jumps with these full-size prototypes as part of the ship's development.
The 20-kilometer jump has been a long-time goal for the Starship project. In an October 2017 Reddit session, back when the project was still known as "BFR," Musk stated that the company was planning to hold "short hops of a few hundred kilometers altitude and lateral distance." The reason for these tests would be that unlike orbital launches, they don't require extras like heat shields and they're comparatively easy on the vehicle.
Musk claimed in August 2019 that the company was aiming to complete a 20-kilometer flight with the first "Mk.1" prototype. The firm would then aim to host a flight to orbit shortly after that.
"Another awesome render! I think people might forget how high 20km is! That’s about twice as high as a commercial airliner flies, so watching Starship bellyflop out of the sky at that altitude will be crazy!!!"
In response, Musk agreed that the upcoming flight will offer impressive views:
"Yeah, Starship will be a tiny dot at 20km. Hard to see with naked eye. We’ll do lots of flights."
The Inverse analysis – The Starship has gradually held more ambitious tests with larger ships, and the 20-kilometer test is likely to take this to the next level. The full-size ship, when paired with the Super Heavy booster, is expected to measure around 400 feet tall, greatly eclipsing the company's existing 230-foot tall Falcon 9 rocket.
While at the moment the Starship tests consist of shiny cylinders and tiny ships flying up a short distance, the 20-kilometer hop could bring new public attention to what is perhaps SpaceX's most ambitious project.