SpaceX recently bagged two successful hops of its single-engine Starship prototype and, for Elon Musk, that’s more than enough to hop onto the next thing on its list. In contrast to the small jumps that Starhopper made, SpaceX’s ambitions go beyond the Moon and Mars. Delivering on its promised update, Musk revealed to the public SpaceX’s vision of how to get humans in orbit and beyond and it will take at least two Starships to make it happen.
The Starship itself is already an ambitious leap from SpaceX successful and reusable Falcon X. The Starhopper tested just one of the company’s newest and most powerful raptor rocket while Mk 1 and Mk 2 prototypes, both being built at the same time in different locations, will each have three. The goal is to get these up to 12 miles/20 km off the ground. The Starhopper only reached an altitude of 150 meters.
Of course, the final Starship will need more than that to reach Musk’s immediate targets: the Moon and Mars. But with great power comes the need for more fuel and longer trips will require more fuel than a single rocket can carry. SpaceX’s solution? Refueling one rocket in orbit using another rocket.
The simpler solution would have probably been docking on the International Space Station to refuel but Musk is anything but typical. In fact, Musk argues that docking with the ISS is harder than docking two Starships together to transfer fuel from one to another, all while in orbit.
Equally ambitious is Musk’ planned schedule which will hopefully see a Mk4 or Mk5 reaching orbit in six months’ time. That may be too optimistic for an industry known for delays and being at the mercy of the weather. But as Musk says, if we don’t start trying to become a multi-planet species now, we may never become one at all.