SpaceX’s huge Starship rocket that will one day take man to Mars is set for first 500ft test flight this week
AN enormous rocket that will one day carry astronauts to Mars is set for its first major test flight this week, according to reports.
If all goes to plan, the “Starship” spacecraft, built by rocket firm SpaceX, will soar 500ft into the sky from a launchpad in Texas on Thursday.
That’s according to recent road closure filings around the company’s testing facilities in the Texan town of Boca Chica, Teslerati reports.
The unmanned mission is dependent on a successful static test of one of the prototype craft’s Raptor engines at 4pm BST (11am ET) on Monday, July 13.
Static tests involve strapping a rocket engine to the ground and firing it up in order to assess thrust and other important measures.
If Monday’s static fire goes ahead, SpaceX has applied for road closures on Thursday to clear the way for a test flight, according to Teslerati.
A prototype Starship rocket on a launchpad in the United States[/caption]
“Surely too soon?” NasaSpaceFlight reporter Michael Baylor wrote on Twitter.
SpaceX engineers have been working on Starship for years.
The machine is still in its early stages, but promises to be the world’s most powerful rocket if SpaceX ever gets it off the ground.
Standing 290 feet (120 metres) tall and boasting three of SpaceX’s huge “Raptor” engines, the rocket will hit speeds of 15,000mph (25,000kph).
Gateway to Mars
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 7, 2020
Musk, who is also boss of electric car firm Tesla, eventually wants to use the spacecraft to put a million people on the Red Planet by 2050.
SpaceX engineers are currently installing the Raptor engine on a Starship prototype known as SN5, Teslerati reports.
The California company had hoped to begin its most recent round of tests late last week, according to Baylor, but was forced to push them back.
It’s possible this week’s tests will also be delayed by poor weather, issues with permission for road closures or other problems.
What is SpaceX?
Here’s what you need to know…
SpaceX is a cash-flushed rocket company that wants to take man to Mars.
It was set up by eccentric billionaire Elon Musk in 2002 and is based in Hawthorne, California.
SpaceX’s first aim was to build rockets that could autonomously land back on Earth and be re-used.
Musk hoped the technology would make flying and operating space flights far cheaper.
SpaceX currently uses its reusable rockets to fly cargo to the International Space Station for Nasa.
It also carries satellites and other space tech into orbit for various international governments and companies.
The company will take astronauts up to the ISS for the first time in 2020.
Other future missions involve carrying tourists and astronauts to the Moon.
Musk has repeatedly said he believes humanity must colonise Mars to save itself from extinction.
He plans to get a SpaceX rocket to the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s.
In a series of tweets earlier this year, Musk outlined how his Starlink plans would open up space travel to anyone, regardless of their income.
“Needs to be such that anyone can go if they want, with loans available for those who don’t have money,” he wrote.
Musk’s plan involves building a 1,000-strong fleet of Starship vehicles, which comprise a huge rocket topped by a bullet-shaped spacecraft.
He recently hired more than 250 extra SpaceX employees in two days to help the company reach this lofty goal.
According to Musk, SpaceX aims to build 1,000 Starships at a facility in South Texas over a 10-year period.
That’s 100 rockets per year – a pretty tall feat considering the firm hasn’t built a single functioning Starship yet.
Eventually, the Tesla boss added, the goal would be to launch 1,000 Starship flights to Mars every year – an average of three per day.
Each trip would see 100 passengers make their way to the Red Planet to become citizens of a Mars megacity.
SpaceX is owned by billionaire Tesla boss Elon Musk[/caption]
Musk was a little vague on what, exactly, colonists would do once they got there. “There will be a lot of jobs on Mars!” he tweeted.
The company, based in Hawthorne, California, is currently racing through various safety and engine tests to get the rocket ready for its first test flight.
Based on Musk’s projections, it would take a fleet of 1,000 Starships around nine years to carry a million people to Mars.
That’s assuming the company really does manage to send up 300 people a day, of course.
SpaceX has already carried out a handful of ‘static’ tests of Starship’s ‘Raptor’ rocket engines[/caption]
When you add the ten years required to build the fleet, the scheme needs to begin within the next decade to have any chance of meeting Musk’s 2050 target.
He didn’t specify what each rocket would need to carry, but a trunk-full of food, water, fuel and life support systems is a given.
The planned tests come weeks after SpaceX launched its first manned mission to orbit as part of a lucrative partnership with Nasa.
US astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley blasted to the International Space Station from a launchpad in Florida aboard a SpaceX Dragon craft.
Behnken and Hurley will return aboard the spacecraft, currently still docked to the ISS, in the coming months.
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In other news, Elon Musk announced last month that SpaceX’s mission to get man on Mars is now the company’s “top priority”.
Nasa has revealed the design of a moon lander that could be taking astronauts back to the lunar surface by 2024.
The space agency also recently released an unusual image of the ‘death explosion’ of a massive star that looks just like a bat.
Do you Elon Musk will pull off his bonkers plot? Let us know in the comments!
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