SpaceX’s Mars-bound rocket is taking shape. Last week, CEO Elon Musk shared an illustration of how the test version of the company’s Starship will look when complete, demonstrating a creative design that bears more than a passing resemblance to The Adventures of Tintin.
The rocket, aimed at completing short tests later this year, is a miniaturized version of one that is expected to send the first humans to Mars.
The image depicts the rocket currently under construction at the firm’s Boca Chica site in Texas. The “hopper” rocket will complete short “hop tests” of a few hundred kilometers to demonstrate the rocket’s effectiveness.
While it doesn’t reach the heights of the full Starship, announced with a size of 348 feet it does reach the same diameter of the final version at 30 feet.
While the stainless steel design is likely to reflect the final version, which Musk has described as looking like “liquid silver,” the “hopper” version also lacks features like windows expected to make the final design.
The steel looks incredible, and represents a stark departure from the carbon fiber composite used in the Falcon 9’s construction.
It’s similar to the approach used by NASA with the Atlas rockets in the 1950s, but those designs suffered as it buckled on the launchpad when depressurized.
SpaceX’s version should avoid the same pitfalls, with a metal that Musk says will “vary considerably according to loads.”
SpaceX needs the rocket to succeed if it wishes to carry out its more ambitious missions.
The rocket now known as the “Starship” was unveiled at the International Aeronautical Congress in September 2017 under the name “BFR,” with a reusable design that could enable humans to travel to Mars and refuel its liquid oxygen and methane tanks by harvesting resources from the atmosphere.
SpaceX is aiming to send two unmanned Starships to Mars by 2022, followed by two unmanned and two manned in 2024.
The firm is also planning to send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa on a trip around the moon with the Starship sometime in 2023, accompanied by a team of artists as part of a project.
While photos of the test site show the “hopper” still in an unfinished state, Musk stated on Sunday that the team is aiming to fly the rocket in just four weeks’ time, with the possibility of pushing the deadline back to eight weeks.
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