SpaceX tests the Raptor engines that will equip the Starship and the Super Heavy booster
– News of February 5, 2019 –
On February 3, SpaceX tested the new version of the Raptor engine to propel the Starship’s atmospheric test model currently under construction in Texas, the Starhopper. The Raptor engine reached about 60% of its power, which provided a thrust of 116 tons. This first Raptor engine designed to fly is a simplified version of the final design. SpaceX wants to be operational as soon as possible.
Rather than developing two versions of the engine, a version optimized for atmospheric flight and an optimized version for space vacuum propulsion, SpaceX prefers to create a single engine halfway in terms of specifications. For now, the Starship test and its booster will be equipped with the same model of Raptor engine that will provide a thrust of about 200 tons.
Later in the development of the engine, SpaceX will optimize its design by developing a higher thrust version for the first stage and a high-impulse version specific to the Starship. In the meantime, we know that three of these first Raptor engines will equip the Starhopper. We imagine that static firing tests a little more advanced are planned.
The top of the Starhopper is still under repair. A dome that looks like the top of a tank is being installed on what’s left of the Starhopper. To optimize production lead times, engine tests and prototype construction both took place in Texas. We don’t know when the Starship test model will be launched, but preparations seem to be moving forward.
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Starhopper, Starship’s test model, damaged due to high winds
– News of January 29, 2019 –
On January 23, the top of the Starhopper, the atmospheric test model of SpaceX’s future spacecraft, felt due to high winds in Texas. The piece is completely folded and now seems unusable. At least several weeks are added before the first atmospheric bounce of the demonstrator.
SpaceX can console itself by thinking that it is only stainless steel at $ 3 per kilogram and a few dozen hours of labor that will need to be planned. This incident should not weigh too heavily on the cash of the US company. It would have been more annoying if SpaceX had lost a carbon fiber piece.
Elon Musk was interviewed by Popular Mechanics magazine about the choice of materials. Stainless steel is the material chosen for the Starship for a cost reason, but not only. The selected alloy offers high resistance at very low temperatures and very high temperatures, which is ideal for a spacecraft that will house cryogenic propellants and make atmospheric entries at high speeds. This allows to build a slightly lighter thermal shield, or no themal shield at all.
The CEO of SpaceX is considering cooling by transpiration. The Starship would have a double wall stainless steel at its most exposed to friction. Water or even fuel could flow between these two walls. The outer wall would be traversed by micro-perforations allowing this liquid to evaporate and thus evacuate heat. This double wall would also strengthen the structural strength of the spaceship.
The Starship test model is assembled very fastly in Texas
– News of January 7, 2019 –
In Boca Chica, Texas, the Starship test model is moving at a rapid pace. This model of SpaceX‘s future spacecraft will be used to perform a series of atmospheric hops to test the materials and technologies needed for this pharaonic project. Ten days ago, we saw on the internet two parts of the spacecraft being assembled. They have grown well since the last two weeks. The stainless steel structure begins to look like a real space rocket.
Elon Musk wants to go very fast. He hopes the first atmospheric hops of this Starship test model will take place in four weeks. This seems extremely optimistic. The design of the Raptor engines that will equip the Starship is being redone, and we have not yet seen a reservoir on the Boca Chica site. So there is a lot of work left.
2019 will be crucial for the development of SpaceX’s Starship and Super Heavy
– News of December 27, 2018 –
It has been several years since Elon Musk presented his vision of a gigantic rocket capable of taking men beyond the Earth’s low orbit. This two-part structure, a booster and a spaceship, must serve to fulfill the dream of the creator of SpaceX to go on the Moon and Mars. This structure has had several names, such as BFS and BFR. From now on, you have to call the ship “Starship” and the booster “Super Heavy”.
Until now, this giant launcher was still a concept. Several designs have been presented, and even some mission architectures. But apart from a few engine tests spread over several years, the Starship and its booster Super Heavy remained a concept in development. That could change in 2019. SpaceX is no longer the small start-up that wants to challenge the big ones. The American company has achieved its first bet, to make its rockets reusable and to become a major player in the industry of access to space. This performance requires us to bring some credit to the interplanetary dreams of its founder, especially as the concept of Starship begins to become concrete.
In recent days, photos from Boca Chica in Texas show two metal structures, a tower with feet and a large cone. These elements and the questions that they arouse led Elon Musk to express himself. As usual, the leader of SpaceX made his statements on Twitter. We learned that the tower and the cone that were photographed are elements of Starship’s atmospheric test model.
First, SpaceX wants to test the materials and technologies of its interplanetary spacecraft using this model. It will be smaller but just as wide as the final design. Its role will be to make a series of atmospheric bounces at low altitude, up to 500 meters high, then up to 5 kilometers high in a second time. This model will have exactly the same function that the Grasshopper had for the development of the Falcon 9. Elon Musk hopes that this test model will be able to realize its first atmospheric bounces in March or April 2019. Other executives of the company have referred to the end of 2019.
Despite these advances in the construction of the test model, the final design of the Starship is not over. Elon Musk had revealed first that SpaceX would build its spacecraft with composite materials based on carbon fiber. Their lightness and rigidity would have guaranteed excellent performance for the spacecraft and its booster. SpaceX seems to finally opt for stainless steel. The selected alloy would offer a better resistance-to-weight ratio at cryogenic temperature as well as in the very high temperatures encountered during an atmospheric reentry. This would reduce the thermal protection needed for the spacecraft. The surface of the vehicle would not be painted, it would be polished like a mirror in order to limit as much as possible the heat related to the sunlight.
The Raptor engine that will power the Starship and the Super Heavy will also undergo significant changes. A superalloy has been developed specifically for the engine. It is designed to withstand immense pressures. SpaceX has its own smelter, which will allow it to quickly modify the Raptor engine based on the results of the first tests on the atmospheric test model currently under construction in Texas.
This desire to test the main components of Starship as quickly as possible seems to be at the heart of SpaceX’s approach. The Falcon 9 was launched on the launcher market as soon as possible. The American company had then improved as and when its flights. In 2019, SpaceX will launch its first manned flights thanks to the Crew Dragon. Feedback from the Crew Dragon will also be used for the Starship project.
SpaceX has already abandoned the mini BFS
– News of November 20, 2018 –
Elon Musk went back on his statements about the mini BFS used as the second stage of a Falcon 9. Instead, SpaceX wants to accelerate the full-size tests with a first model of BFS. The construction seems to advance under the big white tent of the port of Los Angeles. We can even see a huge black dome, which is most likely part of the monstrous tanks 9 meters in diameter that will equip the spacecraft.
If a first BFS may already be under construction, its design is not fixed. The CEO of SpaceX has indicated that a major and counter-intuitive redesign is in progress. The BFR has not finished evolving. The motorisation and the general dimensions of the BFR will however probably remain the same. Elon Musk seems to want to name the different parts of the BFR. The spacecraft that forms the second stage would have the name “Starship”, while the first stage would become “Super Heavy”.
SpaceX will build a mini BFS to do tests
– News of November 13, 2018 –
SpaceX continues the development of its interplanetary spaceship, the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket). Such an ambitious project will involve many new technologies. SpaceX is already well-prepared with the propulsive braking and the propulsive landing of its Falcon 9 rocket. But on the BFR project, the whole launcher has to be recovered, that is to say the first stage and the second stage. But getting back a second stage a a rocket is a lot harder than getting back a first stage. It is necessary to perform an atmospheric reentry at orbital speed, then cancel all this speed before reaching the ground, which corresponds to braking from 28,000 km / h to 0 km / h in just a few minutes.
As the BFR will be a manned space vehicle, additional constraints must be taken into account. The deceleration should not be too brutal. The occupants of the Apollo capsules could collect up to 6G or 7G during their atmospheric reentry. The first passengers of the BFR will not be experienced fighter pilots, they will apparently be artists. It is impossible to subject them to this.
To address these specific issues, SpaceX has designed a second stage between a rocket and a shuttle, called BFS (Big Falcon Spaceship). The BFS must enter the atmosphere by its belly, which allows to significantly increase the atmospheric friction and thus quickly reduce the speed of the spacecraft. Once its speed is low enough, the BFS must switch to allow its engines to go into action. The end of flight resumes the scenario of a first stage of the Falcon 9, with a retropropulsive landing. SpaceX knows how to make retropropulsive landings, but has not yet experienced atmospheric reentry of a spaceship by its belly. The BFS is an enormous spacecraft 9 meters in diameter and 55 meters long. The SpaceX engineers would therefore prefer to test their ideas with a slightly smaller model to begin with.
Last week, we learned on Twitter that the company of Elon Musk will modify a second stage of Falcon 9 to create a kind of mini BFS. The aim of SpaceX is to acquire the necessary skills for the atmospheric reentry of the Big Falcon Spaceship. SpaceX needs data on the behavior of heat shields and very high speed spacecraft control systems. The mini BFS is not expected to return to land thanks to its rocket engines. This phase of flight will be directly tested by a full size BFS, which is currently under construction and could be tested next year in Boca Chica, Texas. The BFS test will perform a series of hops higher and higher, at faster and faster speeds. Elon Musk did not release a date for testing this mini-BFS. There is still a lot of work before seeing the BFR in action. The Falcon 9 rocket will therefore remain an asset for SpaceX’s business model for at least a few more years.
SpaceX unveils the new design of the BFR and schedule an overfly of the Moon in 2023
– News of September 18, 2018 –
Two years ago, SpaceX presented the BFR project, a space rocket and spacecraft capable of taking humans to the planet Mars and beyond. Since then, it has become a habit every year. Every September, SpaceX presents project news. The last of these conferences took place yesterday in the United States of America. This was an opportunity for Elon Musk to detail the new design choices of the Big Falcon Rocket and to talk about its first manned mission, a touristic overfly around the Moon.
The BFR has again changed a lot compared to last year. The set consisting of the booster and the spaceship is longer. At launch, the space rocket should have a height of 118 meters, which is 12 meters more than previously announced. The Big Falcon Rocket will be 48 meters long, and the BFS spacecraft will be 55 meters long. There is no change in diameter of the Big Falcon Spaceship, which is still of 9 meters. This should offer the BFS a living volume close to 1100 cubic meters. SpaceX has not yet developed the interior of the spacecraft, which will in any case be adapted to the missions with more or less complete systems for humans. The Big Falcon Spaceship’s propulsion will consist of seven Raptor engines. The spaceship should be able to survive without problem with the loss of two or three of them.
SpaceX wants to optimize the spacecraft development time using the same version of the Raptor engine everywhere. This results in a small loss of performance but it is much simpler. Around the seven engines, there are twelve cargo containers arranged in a circle. It is convenient to unload and it allows to lower the center of gravity of the spaceship. Containers may eventually be replaced by Raptor engines, which would greatly improve the performance of the spaceship to the planet Mars. Even without this improvement, the space rocket should be able to carry a hundred tons of payload to the surface of the red planet.
The silhouette of the BFS is transformed with the addition of three large wings at the rear, and two retractable fins at the front. These two fins and these rear wings will be mobile. They will guide the trajectory of the rocket during its atmospheric reentry. The feet, which will be used for the landing of the spacecraft, are embedded at the end of the rear wings. The silhouette of the Big Falcon Spaceship strongly recalls the rocket of Tintin. The BFR and the BFS still require a long development. Elon Musk hopes to make small atmospheric jumps next year and a first orbital flight within two or three years. But he admits that this is an optimistic calendar. If everything goes smoothly, it will probably take some extra time.
The cost of developing the BFR and BFS is estimated at about $ 5 billion. Part of this amount was financed by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. In return, he would become the first passenger of the Big Falcon Rocket for a mission to fly over the Moon that could take place in 2023. He would invite artists to share the adventure with him. Elon musk reminded that whatever the precautions taken, flying BFR will still be dangerous. He made it clear that there could be deaths in the attempts to colonize the Moon and Mars, which may be difficult to accept for the general public. In the meantime, the BFS should quickly start its atmospheric tests. A prototype is currently under construction under a large white tent in the port of Los Angeles. In the presentation, we could see a first section of the fuselage that gives an idea of the scale of the spacecraft. Elon Musk is optimistic about the chances of the BFR project to succeed.
SpaceX will focus on the development of the BFR
– News of March 13, 2018 –
Last week, SpaceX launched its 50th Falcon 9 rocket. At this rate, the 100th will arrive very quickly. Between the end of March and the end of April, SpaceX will launch six Falcon 9 rockets in one month, including three launches in a single week. But SpaceX looks beyond this launcher : Elon Musk said last September that once the Falcon Heavy was operational, SpaceX’s development efforts would focus on the Big Falcon Rocket rocket (BFR) and the Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS).
In an interview on March 11, the founder of SpaceX recalled his ambition. He wants to start the BFR tests next year. The rocket must use two main elements : a fully reusable booster burning methane and liquid oxygen, and the second floor a spacecraft with interplanetary capacity, livable and also fully reusable, called BFS. The set should allow to make the inhabited trip to Mars and other celestial bodies of the solar system.
In his statements, Elon Musk said the plans for the booster and the spaceship have undergone some changes since their presentation last September. So we can hope for a new presentation at the upcoming International Astronautical Congress. It is apparently the BFS spacecraft that will be tested first. According to Elon Musk, the construction of the first prototype has already started and the company hopes to conduct the first tests during the first six months of 2019. These tests will be of the same type as those that had been done with the Grasshopper : jumps over quite low distances and altitudes. As they unfold, the tests will take the spacecraft to an altitude of several kilometers.
There will be many things to test on the BFR. We know that SpaceX has been working for nearly ten years on the Raptor engine that will equip the BFR. The spaceship of the BFR must also be able to perform atmospheric re-entry in the manner of a sail. Elon Musk has precisely specified that the thermal protections would be part of the elements tested.
Elon Musk gives details on the BFR on Reddit
– News of October 17, 2017 –
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, took advantage of a Reddit Q & A session to tell about the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), also known as Big Fucking Rocket. The subject has more than 12000 messages.
The leader of SpaceX began by discussing the problem of radiation. SpaceX considers that radiation levels do not require special protections for the duration of the trip. The spaceships of the company will however be equipped with a shelter in case of solar storms. SpaceX will not take care of the Martian colonization itself : the purpose of the company is to offer a means of transport and basic infrastructure on Mars. Other companies and organizations will be able to exploit this opportunity. Elon Musk compares the BFR to the arrival of the railway which was accompanied by the development of adjacent cities.
SpaceX is trying to lighten the BFR. For example, the thermal protection tiles will be mounted directly on the tanks, without intermediate structure. The spaceship of the firm is named the Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS). The small fins are not used to provide lift but a means of control during atmospheric reentry without payload. The BFS should be able to go into Earth orbit by its own means. The BFR is just there to allow it to embark a maximum of payloads.
Thanks to the reduced Martian gravity, the BFS will do all the work from the surface of the red planet. The trips will be made with the nose of the spaceship pointed at the sun, in order to prevent the fuel in the tanks from boiling. The Raptor, the rocket engine that will equip BFR, will be partially printed in 3D. We also learn that a new metal alloy has been specially developed for the oxygen pump. The goal is to achieve a level of reliability similar to what is done for civil aviation engines. However, we learn that the power of the Raptor has been revised downward from 300 tons of thrust to 170 tons, which explains the reduced performance of the BFR compared to what was announced previously. Nevertheless, this drop in power should significantly increase the reliability and security of the BFS.
A third Raptor equipped with an atmospheric nozzle was added to the design that was presented in September, again for reliability concerns. Elon Musk said that for reasons of efficiency, the first tanker spacecraft will be BFS and ultimately the company will design a dedicated spacecraft. Regarding the use of the BFR for intercontinental flights on Earth, the company will start by experimenting on small leaps of a few hundred kilometers. This will test the technique without heat shield.
Some users of Reddit have revealed interesting points : for example, the fact that SpaceX wants to build its rocket and operate links between the Earth and Mars, while US antitrust laws could put everything in question. By 1934, Boeing had had to abandon its airline business to focus solely on aircraft manufacturing. Indeed, the US justice does not allow a manufacturer of aircraft to operate commercial links and vice versa, and it is conceivable that the competitors of SpaceX will use this law.
Elon Musk announces first launch of BFR to Mars in 2022
– News of October 3, 2017 –
Last week, the 68th International Astronautical Congress was held in Adelaide, Australia. Elon musk, the CEO of SpaceX, shared his vision for the near and far future of his company. To develop its heavy launcher BFR, the American company is facing a major difficulty, financing. Developing the most powerful launcher in the history of humanity would require injecting a few billion dollars. The company is currently spending a lot of money developing Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, as well as its Dragon space capsule. With the BFR, the rocket that will be used for the colonization of Mars, SpaceX wants to make all its other products obsolete. In other words, SpaceX ultimately wants to offer only one gigantic rocket and able to fulfill all missions. It must be fully reusable and require little maintenance. Ideally, the cost of a launch would be limited to the cost of propellants. Once the Falcon Heavy operational, SpaceX would switch all its research and development capabilities on the BFR and the spacecraft that will accompany it.
The work has actually already started. We learned that the rocket’s liquid oxygen tank has been tested under real-world conditions, and the Raptor engine has already run over 1200 seconds in 42 tests. The BFR would therefore be a monster capable of putting into a low orbit a payload of 150 tons in a fully reusable configuration. According to Elon Musk, this gigantism will also allow the BFR to become the cheapest launcher on the market. If the whole rocket is reusable, it is indeed possible. The BFR is 106 meters high and has a diameter of 9 meters. Its first stage is equipped with 31 Raptor engines providing a takeoff thrust of 5400 tons, which is more than enough to lift the 4400 tons of the space rocket. The spaceship that was presented with this rocket could have several applications. The main application would of course be the trip to Mars. It would then be used in two versions, an unmanned cargo version and a version capable of accommodating a hundred passengers. It will measure 48 meters long and will weigh 85 tons. In its inhabited version, it will have a pressurized volume of 825 cubic meters. It’s more than aboard an A380. The travelers will share 40 cabins, in addition to common rooms and a shelter against solar windes. The spacecraft will be able to store 1100 tons of oxygen and liquid methane, which is enough to make the trip to Mars from Earth’s orbit. However, it will be necessary to produce fuel on site for the return trip.
Elon Musk briefly touched on the issue of fuel production. This will require the installation of a gigantic surface of solar panels. Methane and liquid oxygen will be produced from the Martian atmosphere and Martian water. The spacecraft will also be equipped with small wings capable of providing lift and maneuverability in atmospheric environments. On the other hand, it would offer the possibility of traveling back and forth to the lunar surface on its only fuel reserves, provided that it is refueled on an elliptical transfer orbit. The Martian mission architecture will rely on the spacecraft that will be placed in low Earth orbit. It will then refuel propellant with the help of several tankers. The trip to Mars will take a few months. The vast majority of braking will be aerodynamic, with the ignition of one or two Raptor engines of the spacecraft during the final phase. For the return, thanks to the low Martian gravity, the spacecraft will be able to reach the Earth’s surface from the Martian surface without rocket, and with only one full of propellant.
SpaceX hopes to conduct a first mission to Mars with the BFR and its spacecraft in 2022. This first space mission would be fully automated and would use at least two cargo spaceships to place the first infrastructure on the Martian soil and to locate the resources needed for the Martian base. In 2024, four spaceships would depart to Mars with the first human explorers on board. Their main mission would be to set up the methane and oxygen production plants needed for their return. It would also be an opportunity to establish a permanent base on the surface of the red planet. In the longer term, Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars so that humanity becomes a multi-planet species.
Image by spacex.comSources