SpaceX will leave most Starships on Mars or the Moon, when they are flown for long-range missions. SpaceX Starships will probably cost about $20-40 million and they can be parked in orbit, the moon and Mars for the cheapest space stations and bases around the solar system. One Starship has close to the volume of the International Space Station. Instead of costing $150 billion and needing 60 launches to assemble, each Starship would cost 4000 to 8000 times less.
SpaceX will need to use about five launches of Super Heavy Starships to fully fuel a Starship in orbit. They will then send a fully fueled Starship to Mars. The Six Raptor engines in the Starship will take the Starship to Mars with about 100 tons of payload.
The Starship is only about $300000 worth of stainless steel and six Raptor engines. There is also the cost of life support, electronics and other systems. The main cost will be the Raptor engines. If the Raptor engines are twice as costly as the Merlin engines, then the Super Heavy Starship would cost about $200 million. The Starship would be about $40 million of the cost based on having about 20% of the engines. Mass production of Starships could bring the cost down to $20 million. The limitation on the cost is the future unit cost of Raptor engines.
Fuel could be produced on Mars to fly a Starship back to Earth. This will likely be a relatively rare occurrence. SpaceX will have many Super Heavy vehicles and Starships.
On Mars, a lower amount of refueling would allow Mars point to point travel and a habitat for 100 people with each Starship.
These would be the most inexpensive pressurized bases for orbiting space stations and moon, Mars bases.
SOURCES- Brian Wang analysis, Elon Musk-SpaceX presentation
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.
66 thoughts on “SpaceX Starships for Dozens of Moon Bases, Mars Colonies and Orbital Space Stations by 2030”
You never said. I say because correlation implies causation. When I look at the map of North America and see the lines of lakes It tells me something happened. The biggest problem I have with the idea is that the lakes are so big I have to wonder how man survived the impact. I think the ice pack absorb most of the energy and kept the environmental damage more local to the Northern and Western Hemisphere.
Never said the Great Lakes were cut by a comet. Just said comets had multiple impacts causing the younger drys and Saginaw bay along with the impact in Greenland were part of the impact strike. The meg fauna was wiped out in north and south America along in with Europe. That much energy caused a massive melt and massive floods before the freeze returned.
More recent impacts. Sodom and Gomorrah. Signs of an impact in Mesopotamian. As for Younger Dyras, I think it was a fragmented comet. There is a line of great lakes from Canada to the US. I read that the ice sheet caused it but I have a problem believing the ice sheet knew how to cut a straight line. A fragmented comet would have cut a straight line. If a structure is correlated then it mostly has single cause.
Space X should offer to launch other countries astronauts into space. Maybe a few of the Saudi princes might want to go. Scientists and labs could be a good market especially astronomers and space telescopes.
There is this weird concept call a demand/supply curve. Has the amount of asteroid gold goes sky high the price will become dirt cheap. I do think space mining will be lucrative but not super lucrative.
Crew Dragon is good for the next 10 years. NASA is conservative. They will wait until they are very sure Super Heavy is very safe.
Enough people aren’t that adventurous. Getting to Mars will kill some people. And there isn’t any thing there but scenery.
I don’t think there is enough money there unless there is a big reason to launch. I am think space tourism and space mining. Space manufacturing was a big idea at one time but I am not sure it still is.
But that is not that you wrote!
And need less fuel.
every rover made was a joke put together by scieentists of questionable abilities,each rover should have had in addition to ls life sensors but metal detectors and sciesmic detectors pulling a potato harvester sorting the stones ect. leaving a pathway behind and returning good samples.
instead we abandon the sky lab stupis stuff indeed.
our rover do selfies and that it. wow
Making the fuel on Mars sounds very impractical to me. I am not saying it cant be done. It just sounds really difficult and risky. Do we even have robots that can do it? And no we cant use human workers for mining on mars that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
North America has practically unlimited resources by the standards of medieval Europe, but the Norse Greenland project still went broke.
Resources alone are not enough. You need the tech to commercially extract them and bring them back.
I was pattern matching to
When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb
Luna regolith = 1500 kg/m³
Mars regolith = 1520 kg/m³
Earth sand = 1,442 kg/m³
Luna G = 1.620 N/kg
Mars G = 3.711 N/kg
Earth G = 9.807 N/kg
At 70% of 1 atmosphere, need … 70,910 Pa (N/m²) of overhead pressure to offset.
Luna … 70910 / ( 1500 × 1.620 ) = 29.2 meters
Mars … 70910 / ( 1520 × 3.711 ) = 12.6 meters
Urth … 70910 / ( 1442 × 9.807 ) = 5.0 meters
The real problem with having “just enough” is that any modestly catastrophic changes in under-bag air pressure result in entire hill-of-beans collapsing. Crinkling of the (obviously) plastic liner, not likely to survive reinflating without lots of holes. And the sand bags might break. Oh, the joy.
Now having supporting beams and MORE mass above one’s head than needed goes far. Just have to find a way to make good supporting beams. The sandbags still isn’t a bad idea. Our Kansas relatives, 6 generations back, used SOD for building their huts. Sod works.
I was thinking more about:
Beyond the horizon of the place we lived when we were young
In a world of magnets and miracles
Our thoughts strayed constantly and without boundary
The ringing of the division bell had begun
Along the Long Road and on down the Causeway
Do they still meet there by the Cut
There was a ragged band that followed in our footsteps
Running before time took our dreams away
Leaving the myriad small creatures trying to tie us to the ground
To a life consumed by slow decay
The grass was greener
The light was brighter
When friends surrounded
The nights of wonder
“I think space mining is a myth as far as bringing those resources back to earth.” For most substances you are right. The siderophile elements are a possible exception.
I call it extraordinary that Musk’s space adventure shows that innovation is NOT dead, by any stretch. A good demonstration too that “the next generation” has just as many advocates of the Future Possible, so as to spirit spaceflight-for-the-masses along, without prior thining baggage.
The pictorial diagram of operations above clearly shows a quad or more of spacecraft.
№ 1 Booster = get off Urth, ¾ to orbit, return + land gracefully
№ 2.1 Starship = transporter of science, people, goods, stuff. The ‘space bus’
№ 2.2 Tanker = transporter of fuelox¹ to power OUTER space missions
№ 2.3 Freighter = transporter of resources, materials, supplies, batteries, food
The last 3 are variations on ‘starship’ theme.
More obvious variations:
№ 2.4 µSat-Launcher = to comport then fling off microsatellites
№ 3 Empty Orbiter = HUGE, mostly empty except for orbital fuelox, no return
№ 4.x Non SpaceX stages… commercial satellite + NASA science missions
№ 5 Suborbital People Mover … Musk’s anywhere-in–30-minutes gambit
№ 6 Three-stack = 2 upper stages just to carry people to Moon w/o refueling
Musk’s booster taking interchangeable upper stages mostly to orbit + then returning gracefully is revolutionary.
Especially of refueling-in-a-couple-hours.
¹ fuelox = fuel + oxygen.
I’m Comfortably Numb now…
You can pile the sand on to 10’s of meters and it would still be supported by internal air pressure at Martian gravity. Though I’ll grant at SOME point you’re probably better off boring rather than piling sand bags, even if you are processing the dirt anyway to extract water.
Roscosmos might want to see SpaceX bankrupted, since they’re about to lose their entire revenue stream them.
I think NASA never wants to finish anything because they are afraid the public will get bored with it and then they will lose their pork barrel money… that’s why it takes them 40 years to pull off a 5 year job, and they become the masters of imaginary space exploration hype… is there anybody left that honestly believes there’s life on mars? or enough water on the moon to make it wetter than the Sahara dessert? riding the hype bubble…. spacex has a plan… people just wants to have a few people living on mars just to say…we can do it… thats’s all it really is….
Not sure if you meant “error” or “era”, but either works so +1 🙂
Perhaps not solar radiation, but the site is still exposed to other space radiation sources. Don’t know how much lower the dose would be though.
If NASA wakes up and gets rid of that SLS then they will be able to divert funds to exploration instead of white elephants. Exploration vehicles will need a rocket booster and Space X can launch at 1/5 the cost of other commercials freeing up monies for may more exploration vehicles.
Elon’s launch requirement for his satellite system will drive hundreds of launches. Mining asteroids already has funding and they will need launch vehicles.
An area that will require funding will be the diversion of meteors. Right now people are under the false impression that meteors are once in 10 of millions of years occurrence. The last time meteors hit was about 12,000 years ago and that nearly whipped out humans. It did kill off the mega fauna in north and south America along with Europe. This video discusses a recently released paper about the matter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPOlomFhehQ Also look up the the Carolina Bays as a good starting point. Looks like multile impacts happened in Greenland, Saginaw Bay, and one in South America recently proposed. Basically this will require funding for meteor diversion systems once the fossilized (sic) thinking has been overcome.
Ah, no. I’m proposing that, if the Starship is being sent on a long trip where most of its thrust to weight ratio is unneeded, the excess engines be removed in orbit during the refueling operations, so that they can be used in Earth space operations.
A starship reduced to three engines would be perfectly adequate for a trip to Mars, for instance, and wouldn’t take the other three engines out of service for a couple of years.
But it would still have been launched as a second stage.
In a nutshell, you are proposing a 3-stage vehicle.
As far as a profit incentive, space certainly isn’t the easiest way to make a profit. SpaceX’s biggest customers will likely be NASA or other public space agencies. They will have to partner with NASA and other private space corporations in order to pay for everything.
For funding, I see no reason why NASA’s budget can’t be at least doubled from what it is now. During the Apollo program, their budget was 8x higher and comparatively speaking Apollo accomplished little compared to the possibility of a permanent human space presence beyond LEO. SpaceX also has Starlink that should generate a lot of revenue. There are now several more countries that can contribute to investments in space than what was possible in the 1960’s.
I think space mining is a myth as far as bringing those resources back to earth. I think just about anything needed can be found cheaper on earth. I think something that is underestimated are the technology spinoffs that come from a permanent space presence. Entirely new societal structures and technology are going to be needed for living in space and I think that’s where you’re going to see huge benefits to people still living on earth as well. If SpaceX or other space companies can find a way to collect royalties on inventions created as a result of space exploration and everyone on earth finds a use for those inventions as well, that’s another significant revenue stream companies can use to continue space development.
Yeah, but you need the high cadence (to BEO, mind you) before that makes sense.
By definition, a no-payload cargo Starship has the same capacity as a cargo Starship carrying a payload, so you don’t need anything special to refuel it in LEO, and fueling operations are mostly decoupled from cargo ops. The only requirement is that the tanker be full before the cargo launch, and that it hasn’t sat around so long that there’s been a lot of boil-off. That’s pretty easy.
The issue is what you need in HEEO, which is needed if the cargo SS is to do a round-trip journey to the lunar surface and back without refueling. Even in a high-energy HEEO (e.g. LEO+2500) with 150 t of up-mass payload and 20 t of down mass, the tanker only needs to transfer about 445 t of prop to the cargo SS, which means that it needs about 1120 t of prop to go from LEO to HEEO, transfer the prop, and then de-orbit and do EDL, landing empty.
There are some cases where a no-payload SS doesn’t quite give you the whole operational space for all the payloads, all the orbit energies, and all the down-mass combinations, but none of them would warrant creating a huge on-orbit tanker. The only time that makes sense is when you have multiple missions leaving HEEO with so little time between them that it makes sense to do multiple fuelings from a single trip to HEEO. We can only hope that SpaceX has that problem anytime soon.
My thought exactly. And, I’m sure, Elon’s. No one wants SpaceX to go bankrupt.
If you launch such an animal empty (or nearly empty), you should be able to put a tank in orbit large enough to completely refuel a Starship; i.e., a fuel depot. Still need multiple launches to top it off, but now the tanker launch cadence is independent of the Starship deep space cadence. Gives you some error margin on availability to launch in a narrow launch window with the main mission. With several of such animals, you can fuel several Starships at once.
Not sure if you intended to rewrite a Pink Floyd song there, but plus1 anyway.
All I see to PAY for this is Space Solar Power, at the start. Maybe a few tourists even earlier, but what else is even close?
Planetonlyism is dead!
NASA has had a leadership problem since Apollo. Lots of factions pulling budget in all directions. Water on Mars, organics on Enceladus, isotopic composition of comet ice, invisible rings of Saturn, primordial quasars, colliding pulsars and freaking space gorillas (no, that is not a figure of speech, sadly). As a result, no direction, no compounding of effort, waste of time (decades!!!) and effort, and — surprise! — degress to pre-Apollo era capabilities. Now they must keep up with SpaceX, or GAO will finally make a big and beautiful dent in their budget, careers and headcount. About time.
Elon, NASA, several others are funding SpaceX. Space has practically unlimited resources and is therefore a chance to make trillions if all goes according to plan, look up some of the countless asteroids in our vicinity and you’ll see most of them are made of minerals that are very lucrative if accessed.
You know, one could go into details, risks, problems and all kinds of technicalities in this story. Not today. A long time ago, there was that feeling of a bright, tasty, beckoning future in the vastness of space, with interesting places full of wonders and things to do. Perhaps that was simply childhood, but that taste of wonder was real and burnt into my mind. That feeling was lost, the future was gone, the sky was officially closed except for government officials. When I read this article, I felt a glimpse of that feeling again. Technicalities can be addressed in the order of their appearance, if there is a reason to do that, if it is worth giving a flying.. thought. Now it is officially worth much more than that. For that change alone, I am greatful to SpaceX. Perhaps, Luna is not so far out after all. If Mr Musk read this, I think he would smile.
That’s true, NASA is being used by dirty congressmen as tickets for reelection so they make these forever projects. With SpaceX at least we’ll have progress, not stuck in 70’s error tech.
That’s true, regolith is all over the surface of Mars. I think they are thinking of putting regolith in the structure of the bases, too early to tell as of now though, maybe 5 years down the line for Mars. As for the Moon they are landing in a crater that is in permanent darkness so they don’t worry about radiation.
Is there any firm guidance as to who will actually be hiring the SpaceX Starships to make “Dozens of Moon Bases”, SpaceX or Nasa?
Elon in the Starship presentation talked about cutting up the Starships on Mars and reusing the stainless steel for the purpose of colonization
Let’s recall we have nothing on the Moon or Mars now but a few relics and souvenirs left on purpose or by accident since the 60s.
Anything, including the first habitats, will have to be brought there and landed first.
These rockets will carry and land themselves, and some of them will be fully space worthy and inhabitable and therefore, they fit the bill as early lunar or martian bases too.
The first hardware they will bring, including the rockets themselves, will be the totality of the technological, living world on those planets for a while.
And this solves the problem SpaceX faces of having to develop the modules of a lunar or martian settlement, which is a very expensive, complex endeavor, just to be able to go.
They will be able to use their own rockets as the settlements, warehouses and factories, so they can go ahead with their interplanetary trip plans.
Elon is going to be renting starship real estate on moon to nasa for $$$$$$$$$ the entire budget of the ISS space station…because nAsa isn’t even going to come close to the size of a starship enclosure on the moon… all they got is a tiny Apollo style tin can moon lander with out a floor plan like starship… that’s because nasa considers it too risk to refuel 5 times in orbit… substantially reducing their payload size to the moon from a space station size down to a tin can… Elon will be sitting there with all the goodies… nasa will be there squeezing In and out of their tuna can..
All you say is true, but a wide diameter booster and 2nd stage tanker would be very advantageous, because you’d get a lot more fuel to orbit with the same launch cadence.
In that case big lots of regolith sand bags
Well I can see where he’s going with This… use super heavy to launch every new satellite… then keep the mars ship In orbit for 5 months while it’s being topped off with fuel by spacex satelite launch business…
That’s not SH/SS; it’s something else. And even then, all the wide-diameter booster enables is a wide-diameter second stage. The boosters simply can’t go to orbit, because they can’t reenter at orbital speeds, to say nothing of HEEO speeds.
If the cadence gets high enough, I do think that there’s a role for a Starship variant with no shielding, one engine, and a much, much larger set of tanks–maybe up to 4800 t capacity. I think they could get the dry mass down to about 40 tonnes. It’s easy to launch almost empty, and then it never, ever reenters. Such a tanker would get filled in LEO, then boost up to either HEEO or TLI to refuel cargo Starships headed for the Moon, then re-insert back into LEO to do it over and over again.
But this is a specialized animal, and it only makes sense if you can refuel multiple cargo Starships at once in HEEO. And it still requires an Earth-to-LEO-back-to-Earth tanker, which is going to be only a modest improvement over just using a no-payload Starship.
I’ll be very interested to see if SpaceX can compete using terrestrially-launched methalox vs. hydrolox produced by lunar water. From a propellant efficiency standpoint, lunar water wins hands-down, but of course the production infrastructure is about 1000x more expensive.
Note that, if the Starship could, for Mars missions, be stripped of some of its engines once in orbit. You don’t need nearly the same thrust to weight ratio once you’re clear of Earth’s atmosphere, and in orbit. Not even for return to Earth.
If the Starship is going to be tied up for a couple of years on a trip to and from Mars, or some other distant destination, it would make sense to remove the unneeded engines.
“The LCROSS mission was a game changer,” NASA’s chief Jim Bridenstine told Reuters, adding that once water had been found the United States “should have immediately as a nation changed our direction to the moon so we could figure out how to use it.”
I think if they do start refueling in orbit with any real frequency, they’d go ahead with the larger diameter booster, which would substantially reduce the number of refueling flights.
A few meters of sand bags would do the trick, you don’t need to bore. Though it might be worth boring deep if you hit useable strata of ice.
First, as several people have pointed out, there’s SuperHeavy, a booster that never goes to orbit, and Starship, a combined second stage/spacecraft that can do in-space transit, land on the Moon, and do EDL for both Mars and Earth.
Second, if the payload of a Starship is 150 t (which is what it should be if they get the RaptorVac up to Isp=380 s), then it only gets 150 t of prop to LEO, so It would take 8 launches to fully fuel a Starship with a 150 t payload.
Tanker versions have been discussed, but the capacity of a tanker is going to be limited by the fact that the wet mass of the fully fueled tanker can’t exceed the wet mass + payload of a cargo Starship by very much. I think it’s reasonable to assume that you could reduce the dry mass of a tanker by 15%, which would make it 102 t. That would give you about 170 t to LEO. It would then still take more than 7 tankers to refuel a maxed-out cargo Starship.
I do wonder if it could be possible. It must save some fuel for re landing, so if it used that fuel to get a good orbit and they had already put some fuel depot to re-fuel it in soace, it may be possible to do. Maybe they could be a few in orbit fueled ready to give an even bigger boost to starship to go beyond Mars in a smaller time frame?
Yep, couldn’t have put it better.
One thing Musk DID say in his recent Starship presentation is that the STEEL in the Starship can be reused for many purposes after they get to their destination. So one-way trips have been considered. I guess that the engines, being the most expensive parts could get shipped back – or maybe could be used individually in ‘hopper’ vehicles to ferry people or payloads between different points on the moon or Mars.
AFAIK, Elon has never mentioned leaving Starships on the surface of the Moon or Mars. The cost of those “habitats” is the loss of revenue that those Starships could make versus large, inflatable habitats designed specifically for those destinations and designed to allow for easy coverage of regolith (dirt) to deal with the radiation.
The Moon isn’t a long-distance trip.
His best bet to keep SpaceX profitable while also paying for his Martian ambitions is for StarLink to generate some extra billions per year. Besides that he intends StarShip to take over from Falcon as their main launch platform. Musk claims it will be much cheaper. It makes me wonder how long Crew Dragon will be a thing if Starship is better.
NASA seems interested in the refueling capabilities so that could be a new market. Launching habitat modules for space stations could bring in more profit. The big unknown is what the market will be for ferrying people and payloads to the moon or Mars. Maybe launching robots for bootstrapping lunar or asteroid mining and industrial development could finally get going.
O’Neil Colonies anybody?
The savings from those people who want to go. Exactly what Elon stated from the beginning in his Guadalajara presentation.
There’s a substantial amount of radiation at the surface of Mars. They’re probably going to have to bring Boring Machines and dig, not live in Starships with minimal protection.
Since SpaceX is a private company and Musk controls it, he can subsidize Mars as much as he wants as long as SpaceX as a whole makes enough money. Between satellite internet and the world’s cheapest launch services, it probably can.
will pay for it.
What will be the economic basis for all of this. It cost money to build and fly the Starship so where is the money going to come from. First time to Mars, I guess they can’t have the networks pay to show the adventure. But after that what?
There seems to be some confusion about the role of Superheavy. It isn’t designed to ever get into earth orbit much less to the orbit of the moon. It has no capacity to re enter at orbital speeds. It’s a booster that like F9 just returns to it’s launch site (or initially to an ASDS).
Starship has to take on propellant transfers in orbit from 5 or 6 Starship launches to go to Mars or the moon.
There is some speculation about a propellant depot/space booster that might as suggested by Zubrin, return from about the orbit of the moon but that’s not something SpaceX has discussed and is unrelated to the ordinary use of Superheavy.
I’ve seen no talk about taking the booster to orbit, and do not believe it is designed for that option.
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