A vehicle that Elon Musk is working on could potentially revolutionize space travel. The so-called Starship will be a 100-person capacity, totally reusable spacecraft that can travel to Mars. But how it can be possible? What’s inside SpaceX Starship that will allow us to reach Mars? Today in this article we will know about it.
Making life multi-planetary was Elon Musk’s private spaceflight business SpaceX’s fundamental principle. He claims that if humans were to colonize other planets like Mars, civilization on Earth might be preserved in the event of a catastrophic event like a massive asteroid impact.
Musk’s Statement about Starship
“The course of history will split into two camps. One scenario is that humans live eternally on Earth until an ultimate extinction event, “In 2016, Musk stated.
“The alternative is to evolve into a multi-planet species and a spacefaring civilization, which I trust you would agree is the best course of action.”
The creator of SpaceX has frequently discussed his desire to establish communities on Mars. According to him, big populations are necessary for towns to become self-sufficient.
Features Of SpaceX Starship
It takes a capable vehicle to make this idea a reality. A rocket-and-spacecraft combo called a “Starship” might transport more than 100 people at once to the Red Planet.
The system is made to be instantly and completely reusable.
Fully reusable indicates that the main hardware components are returned to the ground for reuse rather than being burned up or dumped in the ocean as is the case with certain other launch systems.
Rapid reusability entails that the Starship can quickly refuel after returning from orbit and be prepared to take off once more, much like an airplane. The expense of the entire business is decreased as a result.
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Inside SpaceX Starship Spacecraft
The Starship spacecraft will be launched on the Super Heavy rocket. The combined system, also known as Starship, will be 120 meters (394 feet) tall.
Let’s start with the spacecraft. The stainless steel spacecraft recalls rocket ships from the heyday of science fiction with its nose cone and landing fins.
Six extremely effective Raptor engines, which SpaceX developed over a ten-year period, are located at the back of the 50 m (160 ft) long craft. The engine’s design minimizes propellant waste by dividing the combustion into stages.
Fuels Used In Operation
The fuel tanks are located in the center of the car. These supply the Raptors with liquid oxygen (O2) and liquid methane (CH4).
The fuel is methane, while oxygen serves as an oxidizer to help the fuel burn. Methalox is the name given to the mixture.
Although methane is an odd fuel source for rocket engines, it can produce a lot of thrusts. Given Musk’s plans for Mars, it’s also a wise decision. According to the inventor of SpaceX, the Sabatier reaction, a chemical mechanism, may produce CH4 from atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and Martian underground water.
Refueling Starship using Martian resources would grant a level of self-sufficiency, increasing the feasibility and affordability of missions.
A large payload compartment located toward the front of the spaceship, also known as the upper stage, will be able to transport people or heavy cargo to locations in deep space.
Distinct Components Of The Starship
Let’s move on to the rocket now. Super Heavy, which is 70 meters (230 feet) long, will be loaded with 3,400 tonnes (6.8 million pounds) of cryogenic (chilled) methalox.
It should be able to produce more than 70 Meganewtons (16 million lbs) of maximum thrust thanks to around 32 Raptor engines (this specification has changed multiple times). It should be able to launch a payload weighing at least 100 tonnes and possibly up to 150 tonnes into low-Earth orbit.
The enormous Saturn V rocket that was used for the Apollo Moon missions in the 1960s and 1970s will be outclassed by Super Heavy as a result of this.
Launching Of The Starship Spacecraft
The integrated Starship system will start to tip over toward the intended orbit as it rises from the launch pad.
Super Heavy turns around as it returns to Earth after the upper stage separates in outer orbit. Super Heavy will lower steel “grid fins,” which resemble potato waffles in shape, from the sides of the booster as it descends. These will aid in guiding the rocket stage back to the launch pad so it can resume flight.
Aim Of SpaceX
The ambitious aim by SpaceX is to use its launch tower to capture the tumbling rocket
While the spaceship and rocket are on the launch pad, this tower gives engineers and crew members access to them.
The launch tower will project a pair of steel arms. The weight of the grid fins will subsequently be supported by the spent booster as it lands on these arms. The skyscraper was given the nickname “Mechazilla” because of how much it resembles a character from the Godzilla films.
After separation, it was possible to place the Starship upper stage into a “parking orbit” so that it could be refueled. Musk stated in 2017 that “if you just fly [Starship] to orbit and do no refueling, it’s quite good — you’ll get 150 tonnes to low-Earth orbit, and have no fuel to go anywhere farther.”
“If you launch tankers and refuel in space, you could fill the tanks all the way to the top and transport 150 tonnes [of payload] to Mars.”
The spacecraft would mate or dock with another Starship that is only used as a propellant depot and is already orbiting the Earth in order to refuel.
How Starship Can Be Used
Musk plans to put about 40 cabins in the payload area close to the front of the upper stage for lengthy flights to Mars and back, which might take up to nine months one way.
“If you really wanted to cram people in, you could have five or six people per cabin. However, I believe that most of the time we should anticipate two to three passengers each cabin, or nominally about 100 passengers every voyage to Mars, “explained Musk.
The social spaces, storage areas, a kitchen, and a shelter where people may congregate to protect from solar storms, where the Sun belches out hazardous charged particles into space, would also be located in the payload bay.
The NASA Artemis program, which aspires to create a long-term human presence on the Moon, will also heavily rely on starship technology. The US space agency gave SpaceX a $2.89 billion contract in April 2021 to transform Starship into a lander that can send astronauts to the lunar surface within this decade.
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The heat shield and flaps required for a return trip to Earth would not be present in the version designed for Artemis flights. Instead, following its initial launch from Earth, the Starship Human Landing System would hang around in space so that it could eventually be utilized for several excursions between lunar orbit and the Moon’s surface.
The payload bay aboard Starship’s uncrewed, or cargo, variant opens like a crocodile’s mouth. This would make it possible to utilize it to launch satellites.
According to SpaceX, the enormous cargo capacity creates opportunities for new kinds of robotic science missions, including telescopes bigger than the James Webb observatory, which will succeed Hubble in the near future.
Elon Musk has promised Japanese online retail entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa a journey around the Moon in 2023, so the system may also be used for space tourism. Additionally, it could travel quickly between various locations on Earth.
In the future, Starship, according to Musk, might transport passengers to locations throughout the “greater Solar System,” including gas giants like Jupiter. However, this is still a long-term goal.
Engineers have used parachutes or created the spacecraft such that it can land on a runway to return other spacecraft to the surface. The Starship top stage, however, adopts a different strategy.
When the spacecraft is prepared to touch down on Earth, it first re-enters the atmosphere at a 60-degree angle before “belly-flopping” to the ground. The only factor used to slow the vehicle’s descent in this method of return is the atmosphere. The drawback is that Starship is inherently unstable in this setup.
Operation Of The Starship Spacecraft
In order to control its descent, the vehicle has four steel landing flaps that are located close to the front and back of the vehicle. This is similar to how a skydiver controls their free-fall by using their arms and legs.
“It’s very distinctive from other things. We’re performing an intentional fall, “Elon Musk opined. You’re attempting to produce drag rather than lift, which is the exact opposite of what an aircraft does.
Starship should be slow enough to do an engine burn that flips the vehicle into a vertical orientation as it reaches the ground. It then guides the vehicle down to a secure touchdown on its landing legs using the Raptors as retro-rockets.
About The Strategy
This broad strategy, according to Musk, could be used to safely land the Starship on any planetary surface in the Solar System.
In the future, though, it’s possible that starships returning to Earth and possibly other places won’t need to do the flip maneuver.
The launch tower’s steel arms, just like the Super Heavy rocket, could instead grasp the ships as they approached the earth.
Musk clarified this on Twitter: “The ship will also be captured by Mechazilla. No landing legs, just like the booster. Until there is a local infrastructure, those are only required for the moon and mars.”
At its Starbase site in Boca Chica, Texas, SpaceX has tested a number of upper-stage designs in recent years. In 2019, the corporation launched a 39-meter-tall “test piece” called Starhopper that had a passing similarity to a water tower and was flown 150 meters above the ground.
Starship serial number (SN8), the first prototype with a nose cone and flaps, made its first flight to 12.5 km in December 2020. It crashed down to Earth and provided SpaceX with crucial engineering information concerning the last leg of the spacecraft’s journey home.
The landing pad was crushed and exploded as SN8 approached it too quickly and forcefully. Before Starship SN15 achieved success with a soft landing in May 2021, three additional test items exploded. Starship will be launched by SpaceX aboard Super Heavy in 2022 for its initial orbital test flight.