SpaceX Super Heavy Starship Should Reach Orbit March 2020

The main constraint on the Super-Heavy booster is ramping up the production of the Raptor engines. They will need 100 Raptor engines to get to the orbital test. They build one Raptor engine currently every eight days. On 2 months they want to get to one Raptor engine every two days. By Q12020, they want to get to one engine every day. This means the orbital flight would not be until about March, 2020.

This would be ahead of the Space Launch System launch which is looking like 2021. This should be ahead of the green run hold down fueled test of the Space Launch System.

SpaceX wants to be able eventually refly boosters up to 20 times a day.
They will fly the Starship about 3-4 times a day. The orbital limitation is about the orbits. This would not be a limitation for a point to point version.

The fully reusable fleet of Super Heavy Starship will increase humanities launch capacity by 10000 times. This is max theoretical.

With 20 rockets you could put 3 million tons per year into orbit.

SOURCES- Elon Musk, SpaceX
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

33 thoughts on “SpaceX Super Heavy Starship Should Reach Orbit March 2020”

  1. In one of the other threads, Schmoe pointed out that a fully loaded (150 tons cargo) BFR is expected to reach LEO with 150 tons of fuel left. If that’s true, then even without optimizations, a tanker BFS will have that much plus the 150 tons that replaces the cargo. So 300 tons total.

    Total fuel capacity of BFS is 1200 tons, so it would need to top off 1050. If the tanker can spare 60-65 tons from its own tanks and still land safely, then it can transfer ~210 total, which gives 5 refueling flights.

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  2. Anyone got figures on how many round trips to Mars and back a Starship could do before retiring it (hopefully with the last trip landing it on Mars where they’ll need the steel!)

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  3. Yes, interesting. I have heard he wont even use tankers at first just send up a Starship with no payload so as not to use all the fuel to get to LEO and then off load the remaining fuel to the one bound for deep space. This will be to save on development cost and yet still get the incredible benefits of in space refueling. So maybe if the tanker is simply a Starship with stretched fuel tanks then he is good to go and this may give that optimization.

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  4. Only until Lunar fuel production and an orbital fuel depot or two are set up – which could potentially be done with a small number of BFR launches.

    The methane is more difficult to source from the Moon if we don’t find carbon there, but it only accounts for ~20% of the fuel+oxidizer mass. I’ve proposed that we could combine water from the Moon with carbon from Earth to save some more mass, but it would take some additional development. Later on, we can source carbon from the asteroids (also made much more feasible with BFR launches).

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  5. With starship you don’t want to put something like Thor in orbit launch starship on an balistic trajectory who will impact target. release payload then out of atmosphere. Starship does an burn at highest point to take it back to base for reload.

    However I see an 100 ton long rod penetrator as more interesting.
    Harder as you would need to screw pieces together in flight if you wand an serious long rod.

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  6. IF each Spaceship is capable of multiple launches a month, and there are several Spaceships… cost to orbit will be so low that it will EFFECTIVELY allow other entepreneurs to explore the asteroid belt… there are many trillions of dollars there. But getting there and exploring it is difficult enough.

    Basically… it’s like exploring the Americans dreaming of finding Eldorado and getting gold.

    There wasn´t really that much to transport between Americas and Europe right in the start, that was worth lots of money. The real money was in the EAST Indies.

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  7. I suspect his anchor customer will be NASA

    Was there any doubt. There are currently precious few opportunities for beyond LEO/GEO excursions that doesn’t involve a national space agency.

    I think the pomp and circumstance could have waited a bit longer, they might be fundraising again.

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  8. Putting solar panels in orbit is expensive, and so is sending the power back, but each square meter of panel produces at least 3-4 times more power than on Earth, with no downtime. Once you factor that in, and consider the avoided cost of storage, it’s possible that SPS will be economically feasible at the sort of launch costs we’ll see in a decade.

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  9. Certainly the lower cost of launching makes the whole concept much more workable as does thin film solar like perovskites which makes the pound per kilowatt much lower. and if this can eventually be done with insitu space resources then you’re cooking with solar power. Lots of tech coming together on this.

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  10. The numbers Elon has consistently used is five launches of fuel tankers. So I guess I can’t argue with your numbers and but perhaps he does not need or want a full load of fuel for going to Mars.

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  11. You rightly point out that the payload industry has not even begun to catch up to the advances in launch. Thus the payload industry is VERY ripe for a disruption and, yes, Elon is VERY busy doing just that with Starlink, so he may, indeed, take most of these launches as you say, which could make him the first Trillionare.
    But just hypothetically if you take the NASA launch budget, (which without even looking it up I will use the number of $5 Billion per year) and apply that to Starship launches and even if they cost $50 Million each then you get 100 launches at 150 tons for 15,000 tons just on NASA launch budget alone, more if the cost comes down 10x more as Elon claims!!!! This entirely changes the equation on payloads. It is time to apply the mass production of payloads beyond Starlink communication satellites to space telescopes, planetary probes, Earth imaging, space habitat modules (for ISS or Von Braun), moon or Mars base modules … you name it. Instead of putting so many dollars into research for each payload, let’s mass produce them and start launching. The cost of failure has come down with the launch costs so lets not worry about the JWST failing and just produce a dozen of the things, launch one and modify as needed until it works, then launch, launch launch. Then get on to LUVOIR.
    Starlink revenue is estimated at $30 Billion in just a few years. So if profit is $10 Billion/yr and is applied to payload and launch, then this becomes even more interesting.

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  12. Like the F9 and Dragon, I suspect his anchor customer will be NASA, at least to recoup initial development costs and support base operations. Even if SLS limps along, NASA has already indicated it will need commercial providers to help lift cargo to the Moon and beyond. Secondly, once proven to be reliable, then F9 and FH will be retired and payloads that would have gone on them, will go up on this system. Add a modest amount of growth in that market as a result of another step drop in launch costs. Thirdly, he has his own sat network to finish launching, and whatever other business he decides to enter with access to cheap lift capacity. Finally, there are all the potential new markets enables by a large capacity, reliable and cheap launch capability. Tourism looks nailed on if it can be proven as “safe” and that alone could absorb all the capacity that they and Blue Origin create. Think the step change brought by the first or second generation of jet airliners.

    With all that, he should have enough business to fund a fleet of these ships and their operations, allowing him to support his Mars dreams from “spare” capacity fuelled by abundant cheap methane in the US.

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  13. SLS should have been killed off years ago…but I will likely continue to limp on, eventually launching once or twice, before getting retired.
    But it sure would be nice to cancel it immediately, and divert those billions so something much better, like probes to some Saturn / Jupiter moons.

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  14. You seem to be assuming that the main use of Starship will be for interplanetary (or Lunar) missions. Those missions will be money sinks rather than financial gain for Spacex for a long time to come. Besides Starlink I am wondering what he and more importantly how other companies could use this new capacity and if he has been approached already with something big like that “Von Braun” space station that has been the news recently. Although I wonder how THOSE huge stations are planning to be profitable as well.
    Musk is going to need a LOT of money to get his fleet “off the ground” so to speak. I do hope there are plenty of well funded entrepreneurs chafing at the bit to help him out with lots of good crazy ideas.

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  15. Pretty obvious what the payloads will be.

    The majority of the payloads launched into low earth orbit will be fuel (liquid methane and liquid oxygen).

    Elon stated he is shooting for future iterations of Starship to achieve 150 tons of payload to low earth orbit. To lift 150 tons of cargo / passengers into low earth orbit requires Starship to burn its tanks to near empty. Once in low earth orbit, that Starship needs to be refueled so it can fire its engines again in order to go on to the Moon or Mars.

    A Starship’s total fuel capacity is 1200 tons of propellant, which means a Starship headed to the Moon or Mars will require 8 more StarTankers to top off in orbit, with each Startanker offloading 150 tons of fuel to the cargo-carrying or passenger-carrying Starship headed to the Moon or Mars.

    So for every Starship flight to the Moon or Mars, there needs to be 8 more Starship tanker flights. So the majority of the payloads launched into LEO will be fuel.

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  16. The big question I wish someone had asked in last nights Q&A was what payloads Musk is expecting to be carrying into space in 2 years? What about 5 years? Will he be using all that capacity himself? Has anyone come to him with plans to create big projects in space?

    “Becoming a multi-planet species” is an admirable goal, and I applaud him for it, but he is going to need some incredible financing to do it. What is the market for a 3 million ton/year capacity fleet of rockets?

    Will Musk be the first Space Trillionaire?

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  17. ICBMs hit a stable orbit. They can be kept in orbit, then told when to fall. Glide vehicles hit a stable orbit then descend, Mach 20 gets you to stable orbit.

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  18. First Starlink, then space based solar. What did you really think Musk never considered it? He has all the industry needed (SpaceX, SolarCity, and Tesla), now buy some old mining rehab areas to build receiver mesh areas. Time for the next phase of expansion.

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  19. Sounds like it’s finally time to industrialize the solar system. Just a little more waiting and the financially feasible capability will finally be here. Also time to get NASA out of the rocket building business and into pure research and space development.

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  20. Up, up, and away!!!!!

    If the USAF is not salivating at the possibilities, they are fools. A dozen launches = a Project Thor type system. Have a dozen launch vehicles and it arguably avoids the Treaty in that it is not permanently weaponizing space. Like an ICBM it only stays in orbit for a limited amount of time, no different than a glide vehicle type weapon, but more devastating.

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