Space

SpaceX shows off shiny Starship built for Mars travel

The assembled SpaceX Starship test vehicle doesn't look quite as smooth and shiny as this render from Elon Musk, but its retro futuristic look is the same
The assembled SpaceX Starship test vehicle doesn't look quite as smooth and shiny as this render from Elon Musk, but its retro futuristic look is the same
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SpaceX's Starship under construction in Texas
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SpaceX's Starship under construction in Texas
The assembled SpaceX Starship test vehicle doesn't look quite as smooth and shiny as this render from Elon Musk, but its retro futuristic look is the same
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The assembled SpaceX Starship test vehicle doesn't look quite as smooth and shiny as this render from Elon Musk, but its retro futuristic look is the same
SpaceX's fully assembled Starship, which is expected to begin hopper tests sometime in the coming months
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SpaceX's fully assembled Starship, which is expected to begin hopper tests sometime in the coming months

Having recently rebranded its BFR to the more benignly named Starship, SpaceX has now added the finishing touches to the first prototype of this super heavy-lift vehicle. The rocket will be used for sub-orbital testing sometime this year, marking important baby steps in its plans for the Moon, Mars and maybe beyond.

When the Falcon Heavy rocket SpaceX fired into orbit last year with a Tesla in tow it was a huge moment for space exploration. But even though it's the most powerful rocket in operation today, it is still not big or powerful enough for manned missions to Mars.

The Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), on the other hand, is designed to carry dozens of people into deep space and back, along with all the cargo that might be needed for such a mission's success. Now known as Starship, the company has been busy assembling the various components of the first prototype, which can now be seen in full standing upright at its Texas launch site.

SpaceX's fully assembled Starship, which is expected to begin hopper tests sometime in the coming months
SpaceX's fully assembled Starship, which is expected to begin hopper tests sometime in the coming months

The shimmering, stainless steel Starship looks equal parts retro and futuristic, and will remain shiny and silver because the company says the skin will get too hot for paint. This prototype is intended only for sub-orbital hopper tests, similar to the Falcon 9, where the company will practice launching and landing it within the confines Earth's atmosphere.

SpaceX expects to make a few changes for the orbital version. It will have thicker skin to prevent wrinkles and a smoother, curvier nose section. That orbital version is expected to be complete around June, CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet on Thursday. The sub-orbital prototype, meanwhile, is expected to take flight for the first time in the coming months.

"I will do a full technical presentation of Starship after the test vehicle we're building in Texas flies, so hopefully March/April," Musk tweeted last month.

Source: Elon Musk (Twitter)

17 comments
VincentWolf
Gosh it looks just like the fake flash gordon spaceships of the 1950s and most old sci fi movie spaceships.
CAVUMark
Doctor Zarkoff calling Elon Musk, come in Elon.
Bionic88
I'm an aircraft structural mechanic, if the skin of the aircraft was basically seamless as in the rendered image odds are good that it wouldn't make many launches before structural failure. By installing the skin in panels (or sections) it allows skin to be more plastic..needs room to breathe, similar to poured concrete(but with many more forces). If they changed the material of choice(such as asphalt vs concrete) you can limit/remove the need to account for the skins flex. The engineers will also have to account for maintenance..you will need panels and access points if this isn't a one and done aircraft. Unless Musk has some alien or futuristic technology, it's not likely the Mars version would look anything like the test one. And this does look awesome..very retro as stated, but I have a feeling the look is more of a gimmick than a practical spacecraft..its definitely going to get people talking. My fingers are crossed that it does look close to the rendered one..change the metal to a titanium alloy and maybe. :) Full disclosure: I'm not an aeronautical engineer, so I can walk and chew gum at the same time. If one reads this please include smarter words..haha!
myale
Looks like a nice candidate to start getting a space dock into orbit
piperTom
The name is just as dorky as the general appearance. It's called "Starship" and -- gosh! -- it can reach low earth orbit. What will they call the next version? "Galaxy Raider" to the moon!
Joshua Tulberg
Agreed with @piperTom. The name needs to be changed.
EZ
It would be cooler if they put images of Buck Rodgers or, as mentioned, Flash Gordon on it.
Rumata
Very interesting. Should we say, that NASA was a drunken fool, to put expensive hightech ceramic plates on the Challenger, instead of plain stainless steel?
2008rlctx
@Rumata, the use of Stainless Steel is made possible by some fluid cooling (presumably methane) on the inside of the surface that SpaceX has been perfecting with the leading edge of the Falcon 9 Boosters. Call it active cooling vs the passive cooling that the high-tech ceramic plates used on the shuttle.
MarcBotts
Big Falcon Rocket? I wonder why they changed the name?
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