Skip to main content

SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket goes bolder, changes its name to Starship

SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket (or something a little more F-bomb heavy depending on how the mood takes Elon Musk) is dead. Long live “Starship.” SpaceX founder Musk unveiled the name change on Twitter this week, with a message reading simply: “Renaming BFR to Starship.” In a follow-up, he explained that, technically, Starship actually consists of two parts: The Starship upper stage spaceship and Super Heavy, the rocket booster needed to escape Earth’s deep gravity well.

No reason was given for the change, although its new Star Trek-style moniker perhaps speaks to the ambition of the project. After announcing the change, a Musk follower chipped in to observe that, “unless this starship is sent on a mission to another star system it can’t be called a starship.” Without skipping a beat (or is that a tweet?), Musk responded that, “Later versions will.” Given that our nearest star system is the Alpha Centauri system, approximately 4.3 light years — or 25.8 trillion miles — from Earth, that’s quite an optimistic suggestion. Unless he’s trolling us all, that is.

Designed with the goal of taking astronauts to Mars, the erstwhile BFR promises to be the most powerful launcher ever built. It will carry around 100 people on each journey. While not built yet, the 350-foot rocket will reportedly boast a gigantic 10.8 million pounds of thrust, making it the equivalent of 10 times the thrust generated by the Falcon 9 rockets that SpaceX regularly uses for its launches. Just like all SpaceX’s other rockets, it is designed to be reusable.

At present, SpaceX reportedly plans to test early prototypes of Starship in the atmosphere as soon as next year. Provided that these go well, it is then hoping for an orbital test in 2020, prior to a potential Mars flight as soon as 2022.

Whether SpaceX is able to stick to that schedule remains to be seen, of course. Over the weekend, Musk noted that Starship is also being redesigned. The new version of the revolutionary rocket, he says, is “very exciting [and] delightfully counter-intuitive.”

Hey, it wouldn’t be an Elon Musk project if it was dull and done by the books, now, would it?

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
How to watch SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts launch to ISS
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching from Cape Canaveral.

NASA Live: Official Stream of NASA TV

NASA and SpaceX are making final preparations for the launch of four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. The Crew-4 astronauts were originally supposed to launch on Saturday, April 23, but due to the late departure from the ISS of the Ax-1 mission, the mission won't get underway until Wednesday, April 27, at the earliest.

Read more
Check out this cool NASA image of SpaceX Crew-3’s ride home
A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft docked at the ISS.

A stunning image shared by NASA shows the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft at the International Space Station (ISS) just a few days before it brings home the Crew-3 astronauts.

Crew Dragon Endurance docked at the International Space Station about 250 miles above Earth. NASA

Read more
NASA footage shows SpaceX Crew-4 training for ISS mission
SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts.

NASA has shared raw footage of SpaceX’s Crew-4 astronauts training for their space station mission that’s set to get underway in just a few days' time.

The 30-minute reel (below) shows NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins, along with Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, undergoing a range of training techniques to prepare them for the ride to and from the International Space Station (ISS), as well as their six-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Read more