SpaceX’s operation out of Boca Chica, Texas has been making steady progress towards its goal of creating a reusable spacecraft that can take humans to the moon or Mars. Now the company is preparing to make the next giant leap for their space program: send Starship SN20 into orbit.
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SpaceX’s operation out of Boca Chica, Texas has been hard at work creating a reusable spacecraft capable of taking humans to the moon or even Mars. It started with short hops, then test flights multiple kilometers up with some spectacular landings, both elegant and explosive. Now the company is preparing to make the next giant leap for their space program: they’re going to send their latest prototype Starship Serial Number 20 into orbit for the first time ever.
Sure, SpaceX has launched stuff into orbit before. Lots of stuff, actually. At this point, Falcon 9 launches and landings seem almost routine. But for a number of reasons, Starship is different, like for example it uses a revolutionary new engine. The Falcon 9 relies on the trusty Merlin engines, but a big part of the Starship development process has been designing and refining an engine the company has dubbed Raptor.
The Raptor uses liquid oxygen and methane, a departure from Merlin’s more conventional combination of liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosine known as RP-1. The Raptor also uses what’s known as a full-flow staged combustion system which uses every bit of fuel for thrust unlike Merlin’s open-cycle system. These changes are designed to make Starship’s engines more powerful, efficient, and reusable, all desirable traits for engines that could one day ferry people to and from other worlds.
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“Whatever the timeline of SpaceX’s Mars program, here’s what the company is envisioning: The Mars journeys would rely on fuel depots stationed in Earth orbit. A Super Heavy booster would launch an individual Mars-bound Starship to Earth orbit, where it would rendezvous with a previously launched Starship full of fuel, which would then pass along that propellant.”
Thumbnail Credit: SpaceX
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