Two SpaceX enthusiasts have created a computer animation (above) that imagines how a launch and landing of the mighty Starship rocket will look.
Before such a space mission can take place, SpaceX still has much testing and prep work to do on its Starship rocket system, which comprises the first-stage Super Heavy rocket and second-stage Starship spacecraft (collectively known as Starship).
The Super Heavy rocket will be powered by 31 Raptor engines. Once in space, Starship will use six Raptor engines for travel between different locations, with the ability to return to Earth or land on another planet.
The company is currently planning the first high-altitude test flight of its next-generation spacecraft, with Musk promising to livestream the entire mission when it takes place later this month — provided a series of static-fire engine tests go according to plan this week, that is.
The launch won’t look the same as the animation as it is only a prototype of the Starship spacecraft that will be tested, not the Super Heavy rocket that will carry it on full-fledged missions to space once the reusable rocket system has been fully developed.
The SN8, as the current Starship prototype is called, is garnering much attention as it’ll bear the closest resemblance yet to the actual Starship design, with body flaps and a nose cone. It’ll also be making its highest climb into the sky yet, possibly to an altitude of 60,000 feet (about 18,000 meters), before SpaceX attempts to bring it back to Earth and land it upright in the same way as it’s been doing with its first-stage Falcon 9 boosters. Up to now, previous Starship prototypes have only taken short “hops” (with mixed results) that sent the rocket no more than a few hundred meters into the sky before descending for a controlled landing.
Musk is well aware that this month’s more ambitious test flight could go very wrong, tweeting at the weekend that it “might be quite a short livestream,” though he promised that whatever happens, his team will definitely broadcast the entire mission, “warts and all.”
Once it’s fully built and tested, the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket will be a fully reusable space transportation system capable of carrying as many as 100 people and cargo to Earth orbit, the moon, Mars, and possibly beyond.
Musk said recently that if testing goes to plan, an uncrewed Starship mission to Mars could take place in 2024.
In the meantime, be sure to check back for more information on how to watch this month’s livestream of the most ambitious Starship test to date.
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