Innovation

SpaceX Starship’s cabin interior fixes a big issue with space travel

The spaceship to Mars looks set to receive a pretty roomy cabin interior.

SpaceX's Starship could offer a very comfortable trip for 100 people, the company's new user guide suggests. One insider that has seen previous versions of the plans also claimed Tuesday the cabins are "roomier" than expected. The proposals, which may also feature "large common areas," could offer a marked improvement over the utilitarian quarters of the Space Shuttle and other predecessors.

The guide, released this week, offers an insight into the company's plans for the stainless steel rocket currently under construction at its Boca Chica facility in Texas. Designed to replace existing rockets like the Falcon 9 while also powering ambitious missions like a city on Mars, the Starship could help power a new era in spaceflight.

According to the user guide, the firm has sketched out two main configurations: one for cargo for lifting more than 100 tons to the moon and Mars, and a second for transporting up to 100 people. The description of the latter configuration suggests these people won't be forced to put up with pokey living quarters.

SpaceX was founded with the goal of making life multi-planetary. The Starship program is realizing this goal with the crew configuration of Starship. [...] The crew configuration of Starship includes private cabins, large common areas, centralized storage, solar storm shelters and a viewing gallery.

These private cabins could offer surprising levels of comfort. Eric Berger, the senior space editor at Ars Technica, wrote on the SpaceX subreddit Tuesday that he "saw several detailed drawings last summer," and the cabins were "roomier than I'd anticipated." Berger also noted that the company had "indeed" considered layouts that the public had yet to see.

As the ship could open up a new era in spaceflight, it's perhaps reassuring that the flights would also be comfortable. CEO Elon Musk suggested in November 2019 that the fully-reusable Starship could fly for just $2 million, just four times more than flying a Boeing 737, greatly expanding spaceflight to more industries. Its ability to send 100 people at a time into space led SpaceFund founder Rick Tumlinson to describe it in an Inverse interview as a "Mayflower-class spaceship."

SpaceX has previously released details about how this crew configuration could work. The pressurized cabin space is expected to measure around 1,000 cubic meters, as mentioned by Musk during a September 2019 presentation. That's more than an Airbus A380, which can hold between 400 and 600 people. Musk has suggested that each cabin could comfortably hold two to three people, using less space than an Earth-based room as passengers would be able to use all sides of the room in the zero-gravity surroundings.

SpaceX's image of the Starship crew configuration.SpaceX

Beyond the living quarters, SpaceX has been looking into offering entertainment in the common areas – which could be needed in the three-to-six-month trips to Mars. One idea, suggested by Musk in a concept image, is to hold zero-gravity concertos. Musk explained that the Starship would be capable of supporting such arrangements:

"There will be a common area in the forward section with a big window like this. It will be a lot heavier than steel, but not dangerous. Consider astronauts on the moon with a very thin windowed helmet. They were fine."

One of the first to make use of this space could be Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who is expected to fly around the moon with six to eight artists aboard the Starship in 2023.

As for other arrangements, SpaceX may have already outlined another potential use. During the September 2017 presentation where Musk first outlined the "BFR," he claimed the ship could support point-to-point trips around the Earth in less than an hour. Each ship would hold around 1,000 people, and it wouldn't be pretty.

Probably needs a restraint mechanism like Disney’s Space Mountain roller coaster,” Musk warned on Twitter. “Would feel similar to Space Mountain in a lot of ways, but you’d exit on another continent.”

All things considered, a trip to Mars might be the luxury option.

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