Musk un­veils new Mars rocket pro­to­type

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

Bil­lion­aire en­tre­pre­neur Elon Musk has un­veiled the lat­est it­er­a­tion of his space com­pany’s newly as­sem­bled Star­ship, out­lin­ing a speedy de­vel­op­ment time­line for the cen­ter­piece ve­hi­cle of SpaceX’s quest to launch hu­mans to the moon and Mars.

Musk showed a crowd of space en­thu­si­asts and re­porters at SpaceX’s rocket de­vel­op­ment site late on Satur­day in the re­mote vil­lage of Boca Chica, Texas, an­i­ma­tions of Star­ship land­ing on the moon and Mars and pre­dicted that the rocket’s first or­bital flight could come in the next six months, fol­lowed by mis­sions to space with hu­mans aboard the next year.

“This is ba­si­cally the holy grail of space,” Musk said, stand­ing be­tween a tow­er­ing, newly as­sem­bled Star­ship rocket and Fal­con 1 — the com­pany’s first ve­hi­cle whose de­but or­bital mis­sion was cel­e­brated by SpaceX 11 years ago.

“The crit­i­cal break­through that’s needed for us to be­come a space-far­ing civ­i­liza­tion is to make space travel like air travel,” said Musk, who is also the chief ex­ec­u­tive of elec­tric car­maker Tesla Inc.

Star­ship, a shiny steel rock­et­ship de­signed to ferry dozens of hu­mans to the moon and Mars, is the top half of Musk’s colos­sal in­ter­plan­e­tary rocket sys­tem that stands 387 feet tall (118 me­ters) as the lat­est ad­di­tion to SpaceX’s lineup of re­us­able launch ve­hi­cles. Musk named Ja­pa­nese bil­lion­aire Yusaku Maezawa as Star­ship’s first pri­vate pas­sen­ger in 2018.

The Boca Chica vil­lage, a few miles north of the Mex­i­can bor­der, is ground zero for SpaceX’s three-year ex­per­i­men­tal test pro­gram for Star­ship, whose rocket en­gine tests have rat­tled the nerves of res­i­dents liv­ing in a re­mote ham­let of roughly two dozen homes a mile away.

“I think the ac­tual dan­ger to the Boca Chica vil­lage is low but it’s not tiny,” Musk said dur­ing a ques­tion and an­swer ses­sion. “So prob­a­bly over time it’d be bet­ter to buy out the vil­lages, and we’ve made an of­fer to that ef­fect.”

A three-legged pro­to­type of the rocket named Starhop­per has test launched in the vil­lage twice since July, most re­cently fly­ing as high as 500 feet (152 me­ters) and land­ing on an ad­ja­cent slab of con­crete to trial Musk’s next gen­er­a­tion rocket en­gine dubbed Rap­tor.

Musk’s mis­sion to the moon aligns with NASA’s goal of send­ing hu­mans there by 2024 un­der its Artemis pro­gram, an ac­cel­er­ated deep-space ini­tia­tive spurred by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in March that aims to work with a hand­ful of U.S. space com­pa­nies in build­ing a long-term pres­ence on the lu­nar sur­face be­fore even­tu­ally col­o­niz­ing Mars. (Reuters)


A pro­to­type of SpaceXs Star­ship is pic­tured at the com­pany’s Texas launch fa­cil­ity in Boca Chica near Brownsvill­e, Sun­day.

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