Elon Musk Says SpaceX Assembles Silvery Stainless Steel ‘Starship’ Prototype: Photos

SpaceX first ‘Starship’ hopper test rocket assembled at
Boca Chica facility in South, Texas in Jan. 2019 with a space suited human standing
below for scale. Credit: SpaceX/Elon Musk 
Ken Kremer  SpaceUpClose.com &
RocketSTEM
–19 January 2019


CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – Elon Musk says his new space aerospace firm SpaceX has assembled the first prototype of his ‘Starship’ test flight rocket
for human spaceflight at company facilities in South Texas. Musk says the ‘Stainless
Steel Ship” will one day send humans on fantastic interplanetary journeys to the Moon, Mars and beyond as soon as the mid-2020s!  



“Starship will look like
liquid silver
,” Musk tweeted about the three finned test rocket. 


Musk is the CEO and world famous billionaire founder of
SpaceX – and tweeted new photos of the completed ‘Starship’ test rocket last
week which reveal a strikingly shiny and silvery look straight out of beloved science
fiction movies of the 1950s.



“Starship test flight rocket just finished
assembly at the
@SpaceX Texas launch site. This is an actual picture,” not a rendering, Musk tweeted on Jan. 10.

The 12 story vehicle will be powered by a
trio of SpaceX Raptor engines still under development. 



“Obv must be more pointy
tho
.”


The Starship announcement also takes place a 10% staff cut
just announced by SpaceX – as I reported here. 

Artistic rendering of SpaceX first ‘Starship’ hopper test
rocket assembled at Boca Chica facility in South, Texas in Jan. 2019 with a space
suited human Starman standing below for scale. Credit: SpaceX/Elon Musk
A few days earlier Musk released a rendering in early January
of what Starship would look like.



“Starship test vehicle under assembly will
look similar to this illustration when finished. Operational Starships would
obv have windows, etc,” Musk tweeted Jan. 5. 



“It needed to be real,” Musk tweeted in response to a ‘Starship’ story by Alan Boyle  of GeekWire showing the real image and the rendering side by
side. 

Artists rendition of SpaceX BFR rocket intended to send 1st
private passenger on a mission around the Moon. Credit: SpaceX

The Starship is comprised of 3 major sections assembled by
cranes by SpaceX workers and stands about 120 feet tall.  The body/tank is about
9 meters (30 ft) in diameter Musk stated



The three sections were being stacked near the facility fence
– in full view of local photographers who have occasionally tweeted photos of
the assembly work in progress.



This Starship prototype is made of wrinkled stainless steel
sections says Musk. It will be used for suborbital ‘hopper’ tests (VTOL) and is
not intended for orbital flight tests.



“Starship Hopper will do vertical flight
tests similar to the Falcon 9 Hopper
.”


The Starship ‘hopper’ is being manufactured at SpaceX’s
Boca Chica test facility in South Texas where the firm is also building a
launch site that will eventually be used for blastoffs of their workhorse Falcon
9 rocket. 

The ‘hopper’
thus
will function in a critical pathfinding role for VTOL or Vertical Takeoff and
Landing tests – much like the Falcon 9 ‘grasshopper’ several years back served
as a test flight precursor for the reusable Block 5 version of the SpaceX Falcon
9 which the company has now successfully recovered some 20
times via upright propulsive landings at sea on droneships and on land.

“This is for suborbital VTOL tests. Orbital
version is taller, has thicker skins (won’t wrinkle) & a smoothly curving
nose section.



Although the rocket assembly is complete the
actual Raptor engines are still being built and tested and will be added later.
Three Raptor engines will be installed at the base.



Currently the hopper is outfitted a Raptors
that are a mix of development and operational components. 



Short hop tests are planned soon and upcoming
over the next few months.



“Engines currently on
Starship hopper are a blend of Raptor development & operational parts.
First hopper engine to be fired is almost finished assembly in California.
Probably fires next month.
Workers assemble sections of first stainless steel SpaceX ‘Starship’
hopper test rocket at Boca Chica facility in South, Texas in Dec. 2018.  Credit: SpaceX/Elon Musk

Musk says the stainless steel is better for cooling as the
rocket soars through Earth’s atmosphere. 



“Starship will look like
liquid silver
.”



“Usable strength/weight of full hard
stainless at cryo is slightly better than carbon fiber, room temp is worse,
high temp is vastly better
,” he tweeted on Dec. 24, 2018. 


“Leeward side needs nothing, windward side
will be activity cooled with residual (cryo) liquid methane, so will appear
liquid silver even on hot side
.”


Musk’s tweeted Starship photos prompted Fox 35 Orlando News
to ask me for commentary and how exciting this is for the future of space
exploration.  



“Its a hopper, it’s not actually going to
launch into orbit, it’s just been completed, it’s composed of three sections,
and it looks like what you saw in the 1950s —  a pointy nose,
silvery body, and the landing legs,”  I
said to Fox 35 New Orlando. 



“It is very exciting, because it’s real.  It’s not a
rendering, it’s not a mock up; it’s an actual ship! There’s some engines on the bottom of it right now
— those engines are placeholders, development engines —  but
they’re going to install three Raptor engines in a month or two and hopefully
do some tests, some actual takeoffs and landings perhaps as early as June.”
 
Starship is the new name for the vehicle Musk previously called
a variety of names like  BFR (which stands
for Big Falcon Rocket or Big F***ing Rocket,
Interplanetary Transport System, Mars Colonial
Transporter.

Artists rendition of SpaceX BFR rocket intended to send 1st
private passenger on a mission around the Moon. Credit: SpaceX 


Starship will launch to space atop a huge refuellable and
reusable rocket now called the ‘Super Heavy’ that has the massive thrust
required to send people on trips first to the Moon and later to Mars.  



SpaceX is using internal funds to develop Starship as well
as monies from Japanese
fashion retail billionaire Yusaku Maezawa who contracted
with Musk to be the first private paying passenger to fly to the Moon on
SpaceX’s powerful Starship / Super Heavy.  In a very inspirational move he’ll be taking
along a crew of 6 to 8 artists along for the journey in lifting off in perhaps
as soon as five years. 



But
Musk estimates it will cost between $2 and $10 Billion to develop the
architecture and its not clear whether all this funding will actually materialize.



SpaceX is apparently also borrowing money to finance at
least part of the project.



Furthermore SpaceX announced the 10% workforce reduction
amidst all this work.  



Thus Starship is a breathaking project of great promise but
also many questions as to feasibility. Time will tell. 



Check this link for my Fox 35 News Orlando
interview about the SpaceX Starship hopper- as featured on Jan. 11, 2019:



https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/local-news/elon-musk-tweets-starship-hopper-pics



Watch for Ken’s
continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin,
Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space
Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and Wallops Flight Facility,
Virginia.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science
and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter
@ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist,
journalist and photographer based in the KSC area.

………….

Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Ken Kremer

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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