SpaceX founder Elon Musk showed off a towering prototype of hisSaturday, telling a throng of reporters, cheering supporters and company workers the gleaming rocketships could begin piloted orbital test flights within the next year.
“With any development into uncharted territory, its difficult to predict these things with precision,” the tech billionaire said in a question-and-answer session. “But I do think things are going to move very fast.”
The futuristic-looking Starship, intended to carry passengers and cargo to Earth orbit, the moon and eventually Mars, is the upper stage of a fully reusable launch system featuring a “Super Heavy” booster powered by up to 37 methane-burning Raptor engines.
In its final form, Musk said the Super Heavy ideally will generate more than twice the 7.5-million-pound thrust of NASA’s legendary Saturn 5 moon rocket, still the most powerful operational launcher ever built.
The Starship, powered by six Raptor engines, requires the Super Heavy booster to reach orbit. But assuming an ability to refuel the spacecraft in space, on the moon or Mars, a Starship could return to Earth on its own with a powered landing, ready for refurbishment and reuse.
Likewise, the Super Heavy booster is designed to fly itself back to the launch site after boosting a Starship — and up to 150 tons of cargo — into orbit.
Standing nearly 400 feet tall, the Super Heavy/Starship vehicle eventually will replace SpaceX’s entire fleet of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, Musk said, along with the Crew Dragon spacecraft the company is building for NASA to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
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SOURCE: CBS News, William Harwood