- Elon Musk shared pictures on Twitter showing the construction of a prototype of SpaceX’s massive Mars-bound spaceship at a launch site in Texas.
- The 180-foot-tall Starship, previously known as the Big Falcon Spaceship, is being designed to ultimately carry humans to Mars.
- Musk also said Starship has a 60% chance of launching into orbit by 2020.
Stainless Steel Starship pic.twitter.com/rRoiEKKrYc
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 24, 2018
Starship is part of SpaceX’s fully reusable Big Falcon Rocket system, which also includes a 219-foot-tall rocket booster that Musk calls Super Heavy.
The prototype being built is essentially a shorter version of the Starship spacecraft, though its diameter is full-size: 30 feet. The prototype of Super Heavy will be full-scale, Musk said.
In subsequent tweets, Musk also said there’s a “60% and rapidly rising” chance that the completed spaceship could launch into orbit by 2020. SpaceX executives had previously said the system could launch Starship into orbit sometime in 2020 or 2021, so Musk’s estimate suggest the system’s new design has helped the company stay on or ahead of schedule.
One of the biggest changes Musk made recently was the decision to construct Starship from a special stainless steel alloy instead of relying on carbon-fibre composite. Because of this, Musk said on Twitter, Starship could look like “liquid silver.”
In total, the system is designed to launch 100 people and 150 tons of cargo to the surface of Mars.
Musk has said the prototype could be ready for short, experimental launches called hops by March 2019.
SpaceX’s ambitious timeline is to launch the first human voyage to Mars in 2024. Before then, though, Starship will have to successfully complete cargo-only missions to Mars and carry people around the moon.
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