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What is the SpaceX spacecraft? – The New York Times| GuyWhoKnowsThings


For Elon Musk, Starship is actually a ship to Mars. He envisions a fleet of Starships transporting colonists to the red planet in the coming years.

And for that eventual purpose, Starship, under development by Musk SpaceX rocket company, it has to be big. Stacked on top of what SpaceX calls a super-heavy booster, the Starship rocket system will be, in virtually every way, the largest and most powerful ever created.

It is the tallest rocket ever built: 397 feet tall, or about 90 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, including the pedestal.

And it has the most engines ever seen on a booster rocket: the Super Heavy has 33 of SpaceX's powerful Raptor engines protruding from its underside. As those engines lift Starship off the launch pad in South Texas, they will generate 16 million pounds of thrust at full throttle.

NASA's new space launch system rocket, which made its first flight in November 2022, holds the current record for maximum rocket thrust: 8.8 million pounds. The maximum thrust of the Saturn V rocket that carried NASA astronauts to the Moon during the Apollo program was relatively negligible: 7.6 million pounds.

An even more transformative feature of Starship is that it is designed to be completely reusable. The Super Heavy booster will land much like those on SpaceX's smaller Falcon 9 rockets, and Starship will be able to return from space by circling through the atmosphere like a parachutist before turning to an upright position for landing.

That means all the really expensive parts, like the 33 Raptor engines on the Super Heavy booster and six additional Raptors on the Starship itself, will be used over and over instead of being dumped in the ocean after a flight.

That has the potential to reduce the cost of sending payloads to orbit: to less than $10 million to carry 100 tons into space, Musk predicted.

Starship and Super Heavy are brilliant because SpaceX made them with stainless steel, which is cheaper than using other materials like carbon composites. But one side of Starship is covered in black tiles to protect the spacecraft from the extreme heat it will encounter if it makes it far enough into its flight to re-enter the atmosphere.


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