SpaceX Will Have New Year Photos of the New Starship That Will Fly Late in 2019

The SpaceX Super Heavy Starship will be completely reusable. The top stage is called the Starship. The combined first and second stage will be a bit taller than the Apollo rockets.

The photos being revealed in four weeks will show the very fast progress being made by SpaceX towards getting to the revolutionary Super Heavy Starship. It used to be called the SpaceX BFR.

A fully reusable rocket could lower the cost to space by 10 times to even 50 times. The variance depends upon the frequency of the flights. How much would the tickets cost for a Jumbo jet that flies once a month versus a jet that flies twice a day?

A high-rise building is between 35–100 meters tall and a skyscraper is at least 100 meters or 330 feet tall. some define a skyscraper as 150 meters tall.

The Super Heavy Starship design has had designs in the 110-125 meter height range. The stage is about half of that height. The Super Heavy Starship rocket either does qualify or is close to qualifying as a skyscraper based on height.

Margin on Existing SpaceX Rockets

Nextbigfuture calculates that SpaceX will be able to make $46 million per Falcon 9 launch when they consistently reuse four times and they will make $51 million per launch when they are consistently reusing ten times. The SpaceX operating margin will be 74+%.

Nextbigfuture Believes That the SpaceX Super Heavy Starship Will be Critical to Launch the Starlink Satellite Network for Forty Times Lower cost

We do not know any details about the radical change to the SpaceX Spaceship Super Heavy (aka BFS/BFR) design. However, if the design enables SpaceX to hit the $2 billion lower-end development cost then SpaceX has the money to develop Starship Super Heavy and the Starlink satellite network. It would only cost about $3 billion if everything works out.

Every strategic and design decision from SpaceX is to speed up getting to a fully integrated and complete BFR/BFS. The recent mini-BFR is for low-cost testing on the Falcon 9. Stopping any second stage reuse tests for the Falcon 9 is not needed for the full Super Heavy.

Funds for Starship Super Heavy and Starlink

SpaceX has the following funds:
* Estimated $500-800 million from the Japanese billionaire (for the trip, co-promotion and some part of the company)
* $750 million from the loan.
* Some amount of profit from 40 – $60 million launches. $2.4 billion in revenue. I think maybe 30-40% operating margin. $800 million per year from launches. Note there are not forty Falcon 9 launches but any NASA, military or Heavy launches count as multiple based upon the higher price.

Two years of profits would mean about $3.05 billion available.

SpaceX might be able to get lucky with shoestring development costs to get to 1600 Starlink satellites and a working Starship Super Heavy. A working Starship Super Heavy (aka BFR) means full reusability and even without a huge increase in the number of launch customers boosts operating margin up over 90%. Four Spaceship Super Heavy at $350 million each would be a total cost of $1.4 billion. Four Spaceship Super Heavies could handle up to 200 launches per year by launching every week. 60 of the launches can be used for Starlink launches. The rest of the commercial satellite market would take time to scale up.

First 1600 Starlink Satellites for about $60 million in launches

The first 1600 satellites would be able to provide profitable premium data connections between New York, London, Dubai, Tokyo, Shanghai and other financial centers.

Light travels 45% faster in vacuum versus fiber optic cable. Lasers for Starlink satellites will enable fast low latency connections.

The top ten financial cities could spend $2 billion each per year for premium low latency connections. The next ten could spend $1 billion each per year. The connections would be two each of the other major financial centers.

From 2013-2018 over $500 million was spent over five years on microwave connections to reduce latency between New York and Chicago.

A 3-millisecond decrease in one-way communication time between the Chicago and New York areas was worth about $100 million per year. Chicago is the 17th ranked financial center.

It would take 60 launches of SpaceX Starship Super Heavy (aka BFS/ BFR) to launch about 12000 Starlink Satellites. Each Starship launch would deploy 240 Starlink satellites. If it costs $10 million to launch the SpaceX Starship, then it would cost $600 million to launch all the Starlink Satellite network. It would cost about $40 million for each partially reusable Falcon 9 launch for 20 Starlink Satellites per launch. This would mean 600 Falcon 9 launches at a cost of $24 billion. Completing the Starship Super Heavy would make deploying the Starlink Network 40 times cheaper.

It would only take seven launches of the Starship Super Heavy to deploy the first 1600 Starlink satellites.
This would be about $70 million in launch cost. $350 million for one Starship Super Heavy would be enough for the seven launches for 1600 initial Starlink network. The cost is less than the $3.2 billion to launch the first 1600 satellites using Falcon 9. $2 billion in development cost plus $350 million for one rocket and $70 million for seven launches. There are some estimates that mass production of small low earth orbit internet satellites could drop to $100,000 each. This would mean $160 million for all of the first satellites. Even at $400,000 each, the cost would be $640 million. $3 billion could get SpaceX the working Space Ship and the commercial viable phase 1 of the Starlink network.

The Commercially viable Starlink Network then starts generating $2 to 10 billion per year from premium low latency connections for the financial centers of the world.

Starship Super Heavy going to orbit should unlock more money from NASA and military and private investors. It should finally kill the SLS (Boeing Space Launch System) and hopefully free up $4 billion per year.

It is clear why the Starship Super Heavy is the key to enabling massive profit margins and low-cost launch of the Starlink Network.

31 thoughts on “SpaceX Will Have New Year Photos of the New Starship That Will Fly Late in 2019”

  1. If they ever build something bigger than the ITS, like a super-maxed out largest possible rocket ever, they should call the combo the Mother. Then the ship can be the MotherShip and the booster the MotherBoost. I mean, MotherShip, guys? Guys…? OK, I’ll be here every Thursday night!

  2. If they ever do a maxed out largest possible rocket ever, they should call the combo the Mother. Then the ship can be the MotherShip and the booster the Motherboost. I mean, MotherShip, guys? Guys…? OK, I’ll be here every Thursday night!

  3. ” It’s not gonna happen by 2024. ”

    I believe they are moving to metal to ensure there is no known technical risk which can prevent it beginning before 2022.

    ” You still have to deal with the neighbors, deal with the airlines, and deal with the shipping companies. ”

    They’ll have to deal with it, and they will. NIMBYism will not avail them, the few minutes which are at most a reasonable delay will be accommodated midair, and minuscule chance a chunk of rocket hits a ship will be handled by insurance.

  4. It’s not gonna happen by 2024. I’m not sure it’s ever gonna happen, because there’s no special magic to operating your own range: You still have to deal with the neighbors, deal with the airlines, and deal with the shipping companies. They might put up with the aggravation once a week, but they’re unlikely to do so if you’re launching once a day.

  5. Part 3 of 2:

    I didn’t do as well with a methalox tug/kick stage and one BFR launch per cargo as I did with the refueling. You’re right that that’s a better way to go. However, it takes a lot more launches, and you could easily get into a situation where you’re out of range slots in Texas.

    I have no clue what the range logistics at BC are going to be like. There are bird sanctuaries all along the Padre Island coast, so there’s potentially an environmental impact limit. You also have a huge maritime problem, due to stuff coming into Houston, as well as the regular servicing traffic for the oil platforms. And finally, DFW and Houston are both huge airports of entry for traffic to and from Mexico and Central/South America.

    I’d be surprised if they could do more than 52 launches/year out of BC any time in the foreseeable future.

  6. Part 2 of 2:

    For the BFR, I’m using the same basic delta-v to LEO computation, but from 26 degrees. I then assume 2 refuelings on-orbit, and then a plane change, with the delta-v computed from a 26 degree inclination.

    Volume restriction for my SWAG at the BFS fairing dimensions comes out to 344 birds. Unlike the BFS, we don’t get anywhere near being volume-restricted.

    Note that all birds per launch are amortized over the 3 launches (i.e., they’re divided by 3, based on what the cargo BFR can get to the target orbit after refueling.

    BFR from BC results:

    550×53: parking dv=9518, plane change dv=3543, payload=26.7 t, 15 birds/launch

    1110×53.8: pdv=9812, pcdv=3507, pl=21.9 t, 12/launch

    345.6×53: pdv=9403, pcdv=3597, pl=26.6 t, 15/launch

    340.8×48: pdv=9369, pcdv=2941, pl=58.9 t, 34/launch

    335.9×42: pdv=9341, pcdv=2146, pl=100 t (DearMoon limit), 57/launch (remember, this is divided by 3)

    I get cost of about $19.2M per 3-stick reusable FH launch, assuming 10 launches/stick and the cores being 60% of the cost. Let’s use the $10M canonical cost for the BFR.

    550×53: FH=$310K/bird, BFR=$667K/bird
    1110×53.8: FH=$362K/bird, BFR=$833K/bird
    345.6×53: FH=$310K/bird, BFR=$667K/bird
    340.8×48: FH=$310K/bird, BFR=$294K/bird
    335.9×42: FH=$310K/bird, BFR=$175K/bird

    So BFR is price-competitive for the two lower inclinations of the VLEO constellation.

    Again: price is not the only factor here. They may need the BC range no matter what.

  7. Part 1 of 2:

    OK, I was doing these numbers anyway, so I just modified them to assume two refueling launches for each load of Starlinks.


    1) Dear Moon BFS: 94,800 kg dry mass (1185 tonne step mass with 8.00% structural coefficient).

    2) Dear Moon ISP: 356 s.

    3) BFR: Adelaide values (223.5 t dry mass, 2842 t prop, 330-356 Isp)

    4) Number of refueling launches per Starlink launch: 2

    I have a slightly cheesy computation for delta-v to orbit: I start out assuming 9200 m/s for a Canaveral launch to 200×28.6. Then I add the difference in orbital speeds between the target altitude and 200 km, and subtract the difference in rotational speed from launching at the Cape vs. launching at the same latitude as the target inclination. From there, I manually cranked those delta-v numbers through my model.

    I’ve also gone through and looked at max capacities of various fairings. I’m using trapezoidal birds, that are 1.3 m long x 1.8 m wide x 1.2 m deep, wet mass = 500 kg, dispenser mass per bird=75 kg. For the FH, I’ve assumed that the fairing has been stretched to Category C size (16 x 4.6 m inner dimensions). This fairing is limited to 62 birds of those dimensions.


    Reusable FH (from LC-39A):
    550×53 dv=9527, payload=36 t, 62 birds/launch
    1110×53.8 dv=9822, pl=30.8 t, 53/launch
    I’m leaving out the near-polar orbits.
    345.6×53 dv=9413, pl=36.2 t, 62/launch
    340.8×48 dv=9379, pl=36.7 t, 62/launch
    335.9×42 dv=9341, pl=37.2 t, 62/launch

  8. You do this math.

    Two BFR system stacks, a BFC and BFT, get all that done for a launch cost of just $10mn* and have more than that dV and a full load of cargo delivered. It is as if you have never considered what the actual capabilities of the BFR concept are, what achieving the goal of refuel to re-use with anything like that kind of payload means.

    Say the first iteration only has FH payload, takes one week to turn around but full re-usability. One pair of BFT and a BFC still get the whole constellation launched in one year even if the birds are twice the 500kg estimate. BFS has 4km6 dV fully laden. Refuel in orbit.

    *If the goal of being below F1 cost per launch is met. If it’s three time that, the constellation is still lofted at a launch cost of only $780mn total.

    Boca Chica or not, the bottleneck will be building the birds, not launching them.

  9. That’s what I’m trying to tell you, though: There is absolutely no way that BFR/BFS is going to make a 26 degree orbit–even empty!–and have 3400 m/s to spare.

    Just do the math yourself. It’s not a “we’ll see when the final performance numbers have been tweaked a bit” kind of thing; it’s not even close. To get 3400 m/s of post-LEO delta-v for the BFR/BFS, even with no payload, would require that it have a dry mass of no more than 64 tonnes. That’s a 25% reduction in dry mass from what they were shooting for in Adelaide. It’s not gonna happen.

    On the other hand, 3400 m/s for an expendable tug attached to the payload would be pretty easy. But I can’t see the tug being substantially less pricey than an F9/FH S2.

    Again: That might be a good deal if they’re going to be as range-bound as I think they are. But if SpaceX can get enough Eastern Range slots, FHes, or maybe even F9s, would be as cost-effective as BFRs, simply because they can hit the inclination directly.

  10. There were a series of Musk tweets, starting with him liking a report on high entropy alloys, and what appears to be confirmation on switching to metal. There is NSF speculation that it might be similar to the metal honeycomb specced for the RASCAL TAV, based on expected heating profiles.

  11. I’m talking about delta V. If the BFR has the dV to make a plane change and enough cross range to get back and it only take 5 birds at a time, at it’s launch cost–because it is fully reusable, it’s still going to be used instead of F9 or FH. Flying daily. It might be quite usable that way if it can only carry two birds, depends on when it can go into service.

  12. So what are you talking about then? Azimuth dictates the trajectory, which determines (with trivial variations) the risk to the public.

    Are you arguing that a plane change will be possible? It’s not even close, unless the BFR/BFS performance is something like 400 t to LEO (and I’m not even sure that that would do it).

  13. You have a source for this? I’ve been expecting them to back off of the composite tanks for a while now. Sounds great for 3-5 years after they’re up and running, but until then it’s just a stumbling block.

    A fully reusable launcher that only takes 75 t to LEO in 2022 is a lot more interesting than a fully reusable launcher that takes 100 t to LEO in 2027.

  14. No, the launch azimuth is not dependent on the payload, or even on the general performance of the system.

    A clarification/correction: If BFR has to launch to 26 degrees, then do a 3400 m/s plane change to 53 degrees, it can’t do it without refueling. However, if there’s a methalox transfer stage that’s deployed from the payload bay with 40 tonnes of satellites and dispenser, that can do the plane change. But that’s a vehicle that, while not incredibly hard to build, doesn’t yet exist. (It’s also one that can’t use a Raptor–too much thrust–but that’s another story.)

    While I think that the cost of BFR+transfer stage from BC is going to be about the same as an FH from LC-39A, I don’t think they’re gonna care. I’ve been working on a sim of the number of satellites per launch deliverable for the three platforms (F9, FH, and maybe BFR), at the three ranges (East, West, and maybe Texas), on the four pads (LC-40, LC-39A, SLC-4E, and Boca Chica). It’s not quite done, but it looks like the Eastern Range will need to support somewhere in the neighborhood of 56 launches/year by mid-2022 to get half of the two licenses on-station by 1Q2024 and 4Q2024. Currently, the Air Force is only planning on getting to 48 launches/year.

    Without that extra capacity, I think that BFR is essential, even if it needs the transfer tug and its capacity is roughly similar to FH. What you’re buying is the range capacity, not the actual vehicle capacity.

  15. SpaceX needs to become the Boeing or Airbus of the LEO transport world with the BFR/BFS. -They should develop the BFR/BFS and sell or lease those to carriers such as Delta Airlines, American, British Air, Air France, FedEx, UPS, etc., etc. to operate them. So SpaceX would be involved in the production and maintenance of them, but would get out of the operations game and let those various carriers begin to operate spacecraft back and forth from Earth to LEO. -Then SpaceX could form some kind of subsidiary (maybe with somebody like this: to develop spacecraft to carry people and cargo between LEO and various large-body orbits (moon orbit, mars orbit, asteroids, etc.) -Then they could again produce these rockets (maybe from some kind of construction space station in LEO and sell or lease them to carriers to move people/cargo between large-body orbits.

  16. They are going to start with launches on Falcon 9 anyway. BFR wont be ready for years yet, and they have to launch most of Starlink in the next 5 years. Falcon heavy doesn’t make as much sense, due to volume constraints, unless they build a bigger fairing, so Falcon 9 will launch most of Starlink, at least for the next few years.

  17. Plausible but dependent on things you can not know, such as the actual total dV increment the ship at load useful to the purpose.

    ” But that’s about the reusable FH payload.” <– No it is not, because the FH is not and will not be reusable as the BFR system is.

  18. Hate to sound like a broken record on this, but BFR/BFS can’t achieve any of the Starlink inclinations from Boca Chica without overflying heavily populated parts of either the US or Mexico.

    For a 53 degree inclination, the proper launch azimuths for Boca Chica are 42 or 138 degrees (0=north). My rough (very rough) calculations show that the BFR MECO occurs 145 km downrange, but the BFS burnout doesn’t occur until it’s about 1500 km downrange. That’s over central Tennessee for the northern azimuth, overflying heavily populated parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and over Southern Belize for the southern azimuth, after overflying the entire neck of the Yucatan.

    Doing range safety calculations requires integrating along the flightpath, after finding the instantaneous probability of debris falling on a particular spot with a particular population density. The NASA standard for “collective public risk” is 1 in 10,000. I don’t think either of these trajectories can meet that standard.

    Two things:

    1) You only get about 40 tonnes of payload if you launch due east and then plane change. (It costs 3400 m/s.) That may still be worth it, because opening up some more launch slots beyond the Eastern Range is going to be necessary. But that’s about the reusable FH payload.

    2) Yes, I know about the dogleg polar trajectory from Canaveral and the overflight of Cuba. I think that works because the ground track over Cuba is very short, and over a very sparsely populated area.

  19. Wasn’t the loan reduced to 250 million?
    How do you calculate one BFS launching approx 200 sats*? Is it the sats or the BFS that carries the plane change delta-V ?

    60 launches of SpaceX Starship Super Heavy (aka BFS/ BFR) to launch about 12000 Starlink Satellites

  20. They need to sell a lot more launches. Maybe lowering the price a bit for customers with more than one launch.

  21. They could sell in advance more launches around the moon and maybe by Mars, the astroid belt and Venus also, maybe for 300 Million each for both rich people and scientific institutions. Since their satellite is in an advance stage of development and they already got an approval they can start launching it soon, although at a higher cost with the current crop of rocket but start generating revenue now, when the need the money for the starship development.

  22. Of note- they are no longer using carbon fiber for the fuselage. They are using some sort of “heavy metal”.

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