Starship update14. 2. 2022
Starbase has hosted the first update and overview of the Starship program since 2019. Ship 20 was stacked onto Booster 4 using the catching arms for the first time before the event. Starship is aiming to reduce the cost of every mission by being designed to be fully reusable which Musk believes is necessary for reaching the Moon, Mars and making life multi-planetary.
The date of the first Starship orbital test flight is still unknown and reaching orbit on the first attempt for Starship is possible but not at all guaranteed. Elon mentioned that SpaceX will reach orbit this year with Starship. No information was provided about the future of Ship 20 and Booster 4 and if SpaceX plans to launch these vehicles. Updated animation of a Starship Mars mission was also released.
The new generation of Raptor engine – Raptor V2 was unveiled during the presentation. Raptor V2 is significantly higher-performing (Raptor V1: 185t of thrust, Raptor V2: 230t of thrust), using fewer parts, at a lower price, and less time to build. Elon noted that this new engine version has a problem with the chamber melting during firing but Elon is confident that they will solve this issue. A video of the Raptor firing in McGregor, Texas was also released.
Starship and Superheavy Booster
SpaceX is currently planning to use 9 Raptor engines on the Ships which could allow Starship to have a high enough thrust to weight ratio to allow for Ship abort and escape option during any point in time during the launch even if one engine failed. We can also expect an increase in the height of the vehicles. The future boosters will have 33 Raptor V2 engines instead of the 29 Raptor V1 engines that are currently installed on the Booster 4. With the current design, Starship can deliver to orbit a maximum of 150 tonnes payload capacity.
One of the many needed milestones for Moon and Mars missions is orbital refilling. Without it, Starship won’t have enough propellant for distant missions. If things go as planned in 2022, we can expect SpaceX to start testing in orbit refiling at the end of 2023 and he would be surprised if it would take longer than two years. Elon is however confident with Starship docking capabilities since SpaceX gained a lot of experience docking Dragon to ISS.