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Elon Musk to give major update on the future of his Mars spacecraft – follow live

SpaceX plans an orbital launch of its Mars-bound rocket Starship in early 2022

(Elon Musk)

Elon Musk is set to give a major update on the future of his Starship spacecraft on Thursday evening.

The rocket system – which he hopes will one day take people to the Moon and then Mars – is yet to complete the orbital test that could decide its future.

Mr Musk has given few clues on what the update could entail. But it is possible he could announce a date for that test, which would see the spacecraft leave the Earth, fly in orbit and then crash down into the sea.

The presentation is set to be held at SpaceX’s Starbase compound in Boca Chica, Texas, where development of the Starship has been taking place.

It has already seen a number of successful test, including firing of its vast engines and short hops into the sky. But an orbital test would represent a major step forward for the spacecraft – which Mr Musk has repeatedly make clear represents his hopes for the future of travel from the Earth and beyond.

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The end

And as of 10:21 p.m. EST, Musk has concluded the event. Before walking off stage, he let’s those in attendance know they can get a little closer to the rocket to take pictures before closing by saying, “Let’s go like hell to have an exciting future.”

That’s it for the live blog as well, but check The Independent for continuing coverage of Starship and SpaceX.

Jon Kelvey11 February 2022 03:23

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Biggest challenges

Musk says that the two technical challenges taking up the most of his personal time at the moment are Raptor 2 engine development and full self driving technology for the cars he makes at Tesla.

The Raptor 2 engine, of which the Super Heavy booster will use 33 going forward, has a tendency to want to melt, he says.

“It has on the order of a gigawatt of heat … it’s on the order of what a nuclear power plant producers, so it’s desperately trying to melt and any time,” Musk says, but with using cryogenic fuel and other techniques, they are getting pretty close.

Production of the engine, he adds, is scaling up to one per day. That high production rate is a hedge against problems with the rapid reusability of Starship.

Jon Kelvey11 February 2022 03:19

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Future of Starbase

Musk says that if the FAA doesn’t approve the March launch for Starship, SpaceX might shift their focus to launching from Florida. But he also says that Starbase isn’t intended to become a busy commericial spaceport.

“It’s well suited to be our advanced R & D location. It’s where we would try out new designs and new versions of the rocket,” Musk says. “Cape Kennedy would be our main operational launch site.”

Longer term, he adds, SpaceX has converted two oil rigs that could serve as mobile, ocean going launch pads.

Jon Kelvey11 February 2022 03:09

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Economics

Asked about the cost of Starhip launches, Musk says that eventually, he believes the cost could be as low as $10 million per launch.

“This design, I am confident, is capable of that,” Musk says. “It’s just a question of how long it will take to refine that and have it really dialed.”

The key, he adds, is the completely reusability of Starship and the Super Heavy booster.

“If aircraft were not reusable, how much would an airline ticket cost? I f you had to spend $200 million every flight, it would be very expensive,” Musk says. “If we were in a world where aircraft were expendable, and someone came along with a resuable aircraft, it would be an absolutely profound game changer.”

Jon Kelvey11 February 2022 03:05

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Orbital refilling

Asked when SpaceX plans to first test orbital refueling with Starship, he first notes that “it’s refilling, not refueling.” Since Starship uses 3.5 times as much liquid oxygen as fuel, the orbital fluid transfers will be mostly liquid oxygen.

But as far as the timing of those tests, “Optimistically, toward the end of next year,” Musk says. “I would be surprised if it is longer than two years for doing the refilling.”

The Artemis III mission, which will require multiple Starship orbital refillings in order to make the lunar landing, is currently scheduled for sometime in 2025.

Jon Kelvey11 February 2022 03:02

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Starship orbital test flight timing

After showing a video illustrating Starship taking people to a city on Mars, Musk cries, “Let’s make this real!”, and then asks for questions from the media assembled at Starbase. He’s blinded by lights and so asks them to yell them out.

When questioned when SpaceX will fly it’s first Starship orbital test, Musk said, “I feel highly confident we’ll make it to orbit this year.”

SpaceX can’t launch it’s big ship until the US FAA completes an environmental review of the company’s operations at Starbase. Musk says he doesn’t know when the FAA might complete that process, but “We have gotten a sort of rough indication there may be an approval in March.”

If FAA doesn’t approve launch operations at Starbase, Musk says SpaceX is already approved to launch from Cape Canavral, in Florida, and could pivot to launch from there, though it could delay the launch by six to eight months.

Ultimately, Musk says, SpaceX plans to have Starship production and launch facilities in both Texas and Florida.

Jon Kelvey11 February 2022 02:52

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Starship Missions

Preparing to show a video about Starship’s orbital flight, Musk mentions planned upcoming missions for the vehicle, including test missions to deliver Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit.

“There will probably be bumps in the road, but we want to iron those out with satellite missions,” Musk says, “and get something extremely reliable for human spaceflight missions.”

Planned crewed missions include the Starship serving as a Moon lander for the Artemis program, and the dearMoon mission, which will fly artists around the Moon in Starship.

Jon Kelvey11 February 2022 02:39

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Stage 0

“The tower and the launch system, which I call stage zero, is just as important as stage 1 and stage 2,” Musk says, describing the launch tower SpaceX took 13 months to construct at Starbase.

The tower not only holds the rocket for lift off, but will catch Starship when it returns from orbit, “aspirationally,” Musk says.

Jon Kelvey11 February 2022 02:31

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Starship facts

Musk begins talking about Starship’s technical aspects. It will have a payload of 100 to 150 tonnes beginning on the orbit, and could potentially carry 200 tonnes of propellant to orbit to refuelling other Starships in space, something he says is necessary for going to Mars.

It’s also an essential part of the planned operations for the Starship variant SpaceX is developing for Nasa’s Human Landing System, the vehicle that will actually carry astronauts back to the surface of the Moon in 2025 as part of the Artemis III mission.

Jon Kelvey11 February 2022 02:27

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Rapid reusability

Musk notes that Starship is designed to fly three times a day. The ship is resuable every six to eight hours, and the booster, in theory, he says, can fly every hour, taking only six minutes to reach space and return.

That resuability is key to putting a million tonnes of mass into Earth orbit, he says, which is necessary to build a self-sustaining city on Mars. “I think we should do it as soon as possible”

Jon Kelvey11 February 2022 02:20

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