SpaceX Single Stage to Orbit Starship

The new upper stage of the SpaceX Super Heavy Starship is called the Starship. Elon Musk has described that the Starship can make it to orbit in a single stage but it would not be able to have a heat shield, landing propellant or landing legs. It is single stage to orbit with virtually no payload or it is reusable.

SOURCES – Elon Musk Twitter, SpaceX
Written By Brian Wang,

37 thoughts on “SpaceX Single Stage to Orbit Starship”

  1. You haven’t done the math. The first stage has a lot more space. Not against the Bigelows. Though I think they have gone to absurd lengths to try to make people believe they are safe…that compromises their concept to some degree. I think they could make them far larger but the same mass…but they go crazy with too many layers. Though it is probably due to some bureaucratic nonsense at NASA.

    Also, a space for hydroponics does not have the same safety and health requirements as something the astronauts will live in. Ideally, most of the operations would be automated or remotely controlled perhaps partly by virtual presence from the ISS or rotating space station.

  2. By all means just forget the ISS and Space Stations in general. We can just have people in bed.

    No, bed and swimming pools are just the best we can do…not a sufficient substitute. How many people have had their eyes change shape because they were bed ridden? No, microgravity is different. Muscles do atrophy if you do not use them, and bone mass does go down and cardiovascular weakness in dealing with gravity, keeping blood from pooling and such are similar…but I don’t believe the deterioration is as fast as it is in microgravity. Being bed ridden also has some additional issues like inability to fully empty the bladder (which can lead to infection), bed sores, and difficulty in maintaining good hygiene.
    But we are talking about 2 different things, and without actually studying how the body reacts to microgravity, you would not know what is similar and what is unique.
    We already know that plants can get very confused in microgravity…light and nutrition are not enough. And plants tend to be bedridden as well, while not having these issues 😉

    And astronauts could sleep vertically, or sandwiched somehow putting weight on their bones. There are all kinds of possibilities, which is why we must experiment to find things that are effective and the least annoyance/wasted productive time.

  3. Cheaper than that. You don’t need mutiple rings or cylinders, you can ajust gravity to differet strengths by simply ajusting the length separating cylinders perhaps by bringing in a cable. You just test at different lengths whatever needs to be tested, over time. No need to bring up lots of cylinders, or assemble rings.

  4. But wait…

    If it is SSTO, and not surprisingly non-returnable, then the entire reason to use stainless steel is moot, and frankly there are way better materials that are far lighter weight and either slightly less or slightly more expensive that’d be more suitable.

    Seriously. Titanium, carbon acrylimide, trivalent aluminum, etc.

    Yet, to have a SSTO also belies whether the Rocket Engineers are mere suck-ups to Elons glitzy SciFi-magazine-cover sparkles, or whether they might learn from the last 70+ years of successful (and widely various) space rocketry engineering … which gives a huge advantage to MSTO (multiple stages to orbit-and-beyond).

    Perhaps this is a little obscure window into the fact that the BFR hasn’t yet taken off, whizzed a few thousand miles, retro-rocketed to a huge graceful turn, then landed on a barge, yet. And moreover, is WAY harder to do than the more svelte Falcon series.

    Just saying,

  5. You could do much better than that with a couple super sized bigelow habs put into orbit from a cargo starship and superheavy.

  6. Stripping it that far makes it start to resemble Shuttle-C. But if you have full fat SS+SH already, then there’s no case for what is effectively an expendable SSTO. If you wanted most of the relevant parts from an expendable on orbit for use on something else, just deliver them as payload with a full fat Starship.

  7. Considering they do bed-rest studies here on the Earth to simulate the effects of microgravity, sleeping at G might not be enough.

  8. The Venture Star was not cancelled because of its inability to reach orbit or carry payload. It was cancelled because the inability of its management to listen to their engineers, who demonstrated in tests that integration of metal propellant tanks resulted in a lighter vehicle than even the composite fuel tanks the program was tasked to test (but which kept failing) would allow. In other words, the design of the Venturestar was fit for purpose as an SSTO. While having come up with a workable design during the program and an 85% completed vehicle, NASA cancelled it for no good reason except the usual background competition between programs and political constituencies.

  9. My hunch is they will do precisely that: suborbital launches to test almost all the cycles of launching and re-entry, with less stress and without -purposefully- destroying a perfectly good test vehicle.

  10. New prefab modules can be built on earth for launch to orbit as SSTO lifts. An alternative to scrapping at end-of-life for planetary launch of Starship, might also allow a second life conversion as an interplanetary cycle transport.

  11. I have my doubts on single stage to orbit using methane-lox.
    360 ISP is way less than the 460 ISP hydrogen-lox gives, and using hydrogen-lox just barely gives performance for single stage to orbit.
    Even if SpaceX has some magic that will get the Raptor engine to 420 ISP, it is still not enough.
    Check out NASA’s canceled Venture Star program.

  12. Because “BFR” was fine to amuse the masses, but stuffy potential customers wouldn’t have been amused.

  13. I don’t think he’s claiming anyone would use it that way, just bragging about the theoretical capacity.

  14. “BFR” was fine before – why did they shift to this newer long-winded name, “Starship Superheavy”?

    Is this some clever-by-half attempt at branding? Perhaps the intent is for the booster to be used for superheavy cargo flights in general, and thus the name “Superheavy”. Meanwhile, “Starship” sounds blatantly over-the-top, like the name “Virgin Galactic”.

  15. It would be an inefficient and expensive way to fly, but a good way to test. It can fly *with* heat shield and landing legs to about 90% of orbit, then come back down, testing reentry and landing. It can also do lesser flights in early testing. A test program where you don’t throw away any hardware will be pretty cheap.

  16. couldnt you have different levels of simulated gravity by having multiple rings or cylinders at different distances from the center of mass?

  17. The fuel takes up a greater mass fraction as you get bigger, while the mass fraction of the empty weight (aka. dry weight) gets smaller.

  18. so you can send up a fuel tanker ssto, then refuel it with another multi staged starship tanker with heat shield and landing gear. that will at least save you one first stage reuse.

  19. So that as a second stage it can have a useful payload as well as everything that makes it reusable.

  20. Hmm – no I think he got it right? Assuming “1 to 10” is greater than “1 to 100″…

  21. It might even be possible to remove all the engines and put these in the second stage of the second rocket, after it delivers its cargo, to take back home saving most of the cost of the first stage. Don’t know how difficult that would be during spacewalks. Can’t use the engines anyway, if we are using that first stage as a food garden.

  22. The volume of usable space far exceeds the ISS by quite a bit. I think it is ideal for making a big aeroponics facility close to the ISS. That could reduce the number of supply trips to the ISS. Should be well worth the money.

    I think we should use the ISS to see how close we can get it to not needing resupply from the ground.

    I would also build a rotating station, so astronauts could either take turns in gravity or they all could go to it during the night. This should allow their physiologies to suffer less. They could also experiment with different rotational rates. For example sleeping in 1.5 G might be good enough to unto zero G during the day. And maybe allow them to exercise less…giving them more useful time. And that exercise could also be at 1 or 1.5G. They could start at 0.3 for the people on ISS when the rotating hab goes online, so they can get up to speed.

    It would require a second launch to boost that first stage to the height of the ISS. But it could also bring the stuff needed for getting that hydroponics/aeroponics garden put together. That second boost might be tricky. They may need to transfer some fuel to it and reattach it. I don’t like the towing by cable option as there is no easy way to stop it, after you get it moving. A truss is a possibility, but it would have to be able to endure the heat from the second stage. They could attach it in reverse order with a truss between and push it, but that could block vision somewhat.

  23. Called it!
    When ssto was first claimed I suggested it was a design study with all the heavy stuff removed, not just the existing ship.

  24. It is single stage to orbit with virtually no payload 

    The problem of all Earth launched SSTO rockets.

    That’s why two stages with full reusability is a much better proposition.

  25. The most you can speculate based on that tweet is, he’s trying to make the case that Starship could be capable of single stage to orbit if you throw away the reuse related gear, at least on paper.

  26. The ratio of empty weight to fueled weight gets greater as the rocket gets bigger so the Starship could be big enough to reach orbit using a single stage.

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