135 'Starship' stories
March 2020 - August 2022
SpaceX’s latest and largest rocket, Starship, is currently being developed in Boca Chica, Texas.
Starship makes use of a new engine, the Raptor, as Starship uses Methane rather than RP-1 as a fuel. This use of Methane is essential, as SpaceX’s goal is for Starship to be the vehicle to bring humans to Mars. Methane can be generated with Carbon Dioxide and the water from ice on Mars. This opens the possibility of refueling and launching back to Earth. Starship booster, known as Super Heavy, may have up to 32 raptor engines once development is complete.
Development is moving quickly, and SpaceX is aiming to have an orbital flight of Starship by the end of this year. Starship will have both a reuseable first and second stage. The second stage will land in a unique bellyflop profile to reduce the amount of fuel needed to land, while the first stage will be caught by the rocket’s launch tower
The launch of SN15 was the first successful high-altitude test. The Starship prototype took flight on its three raptor engines, shut down each in turn, then flipped into a bellyflop position for its descent. Using the fins, Starship is able to control its descent, before relighting the Raptor engines and going vertical to land.
Since SN15, it is been relatively quiet at Starbase. Mid-2021 we saw the stacking of Starship 20 on top of Booster 4. It was then quickly destacked and Starship 20 was returned to the build site. The orbital flight attempt is expected to take place no earlier than March 2022.
SpaceX has also resumed work on a Florida launch site for Starship. In a tweet, Elon Musk confirmed that work to build an orbital launch mount at LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center had started.
LC-39A isn’t the only planned launch site from Florida, as SpaceX has inquired about the use of LC-49, a previously undeveloped launch site north of LC-39B at Kennedy Space Center. The environmental process will proceed in January 2022.