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SpaceX Starship Plans for The Moon, Mars and Earth-to-Earth Transport

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video animation showing Video clip showing Starship tanker vehicle (essentially the Starship spacecraft minus the windows)

In a recent update to the SpaceX web site, Elon Musk and crew added some detail and updates to the plans for passenger and satellite cargo travel using its developing rocket tech. Naturally both SpaceX Starlink Satellite Launches and work for hire missions for NASA and others have been happening on a regular basis.

All of these and other projects also all serve to push the development of the systems for longer term projects, goals and plans.

Video showing REUSABILITY – While most rockets are designed to burn up on reentry, SpaceX rockets can not only withstand reentry but can also successfully land back on Earth and refly again.

“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great – and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.”

— ELON MUSK, SPACEX

One that has a specific stated timeline is the Private Lunar Mission. First announced in the fall of 2018, Japanese fashion billionaire and art collector Yusaku Maezawa has purchased the fist ticket to orbit the moon on a SpaceX flight. The undisclosed price of the ticket will help fund the ongoing project to perfect the Starship and it’s rocket booster side-kick Super Heavy (formerly known as BFR) which, together, represent a reusable transportation system that SpaceX hopes will, one day soon, take passengers into orbit and on interplanetary missions.

Diagram / SpaceX

Those missions, starting with the week-long moon mission for Maezawa, will eventually include the first manned mission to Mars, with an inaugural flight currently projected to happen by 2024. An initial cargo only flight is penciled in for 2022.

video animation showing the Starship Features and Design

Challenges A-plenty for Decades

Elon and SpaceX are certainly aware of the challenges of these incredibly ambitious plans and accelerated timelines.

video animation: The Dragon spacecraft is capable of carrying up to 7 passengers to and from Earth orbit, and beyond. It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth, and will soon become the first private spacecraft to take humans to the space station.

The website details the plan for the potentially treacherous landing sequence once the Starship actually reaches Mars. This includes an entry into the Mars atmosphere, never before breached by a human, at 7.5 kilometers per second. These video simulations show the ideal plan for the Starship to conquer this task.

Earth to Earth Transportation System

The team of Starship and Super Heavy are also part of a planned Earth to Earth transportation system for long distance travel around the globe. With the advantages of leaving the earth’s atmosphere (for a short time based on the incredible speed of the system) where there is little to no friction and no weather or turbulence.

As can be seen in the table below, the average intercontinental commercial jet flight, such as London to Hong Kong, that currently takes 12 in-flight hours, would be reduced to 35 minutes. Basically this would mean that any distance on earth could be reached in an hour or less.

ROUTEDISTANCECOMMERCIAL AIRLINESTARSHIP
LOS ANGELES TO NEW YORK3,983km5 hours, 25 min25 min
BANGKOK TO DUBAI4,909km6 hours, 25 min27 min
TOKYO TO SINGAPORE5,350km7 hours, 10 min28 min
LONDON TO NEW YORK5,555km7 hours, 55 min29 min
NEW YORK TO PARIS5,849km7 hours, 20 min30 min
SYDNEY TO SINGAPORE6,288km8 hours, 20 min31 min
LOS ANGELES TO LONDON8,781km10 hours, 30 min32 min
LONDON TO HONG KONG9,648km11 hours, 50 min34 min

“Rocket-lag” vs. Jet-lag, that’s a topic for a whole other article.

With all these plans, in addition to the missions to and from the space station and trips to host various payloads, it begs the question, what was NASA doing during the years from 1972, when the last moon mission was completed, until SpaceX was first contracted to assist.

And with all the private space exploration companies vying for position and invested in by both public and private funding, will this push be sustained throughout the 2020s?

With the Global Climate Crisis looming and various governments and private behemoths showing little regard for cooperation or or philanthropic behavior, the outcome and timeline of off-earth projects seem almost certain to be impacted by terrestrial obstacles, virtually every step of the way.


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