SpaceX in 2021 Will Have 3,000 Employees Mass-Producing Two Starships Per Week

Felix Schlang at What about It? has covered key news from Elon Musk’s Starship conversation with Robert Zubrin, President of the Mars Society.

Elon Musk says currently there are 300 employees working on Starships in Boca Chica. Elon said by next year there will be 3,000 employees working on building a factory for mass-producing two Starships per week.

Musk says mass-produced SpaceX Starships will cost $5 million each.

Airbus and Boeing Make 800-900 Planes In Normal Years

Boeing and Airbus delivered 35 and 138 commercial jets in December 2019, compared to 102 and 127 deliveries, respectively, in the same month last year. For the full year 2019, Boeing delivered 380 aircraft, while Airbus set a new all-time annual record, handing over 863 jets. Boeing had retained a deliveries lead over Airbus since 2012. In February 2019, Airbus had said the 2019 target was 880 to 890 commercial aircraft deliveries. Boeing had originally set a target of 810-815 deliveries for 2019.

737 MFG photo by Ken DeJarlais

SpaceX will likely need triple the rocket engine capacity. They currently make about 300-500 Merlin rocket engines each year. If SpaceX is making 100 Starships per year then they will need 700 Raptor rocket engines for those Starships. They will also need 30 Raptor engines for each Super Heavy booster.

SpaceX and Mars

Elon Musk will make many football fields of solar panels to provide the energy to create fuel on Mars.

The first five Super Heavy Starships sent to Mars will stay on Mars.

The first few ships to Mars will have 20 to 50 people. There will be more cargo.

SpaceX will go for a 100-kilometer Starship hop right after the 20-kilometer test.

Robert Zubrin believes that SpaceX will put the first person on Mars before NASA puts the next person on the moon.

67 thoughts on “SpaceX in 2021 Will Have 3,000 Employees Mass-Producing Two Starships Per Week”

  1. “If SpaceX is making 100 Starships per year then they will need 700 Raptor rocket engines for those Starships. They will also need 30 Raptor engines for each Super Heavy booster.”

    I see on the SpaceX website, 6 Raptors per Starship, 37 per Starship heavy

  2. I don’t think SpaceX will produce 100 Starship the first year. Maybe the second. They will ramp up the production for sure.
    But 5 millions/starship it is very cheap.
    They can literally build the BFR, use it for civil transport, lend it to the military and, after a while, park it in orbit and refuel it to go to Mars (or the Moon). And they can sell the service to others, too.

  3. And now, witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station…. err I mean remotely beamed power station. Yes. That’s what I mean. Totally.

  4. It was just what I thought!

    No need to simulate 7.5 billion different brains when you can reuse the same code…

  5. My only issue with this is the solar power. A nuclear reactor would be far more reliable. I’d want a couple of those up and running on Mars before I contemplated a move there.

  6. Even if you offer it for free, the mrket takes time to develop. Years. I think that was the point of people questioning demand vs supply. The mass production is suggested for next year.

  7. Ideological nonsense. And these were great engines for the time.
    They just did not have the money to develop large engines just for space travel. They used maybe 1/10 the money for their program. Ours was very bloated with all the pork barrel nonsense of having thousands of companies making stuff. We probably could have used 1/3 the money if only what really should have been contracted out was…and to the appropriate firms. “At its peak, the Apollo program employed 400,000 people and required the support of over 20,000 industrial firms and universities.”
    Sounds like inferior organization to me. Highly inefficient. Got it done obviously. Throw enough money at something and things can happen…they can also fail like SDI, American supersonic transport (SST), and Nixon’s war on cancer.
    The Russians lost a lot of rocket scientists/engineers in an accident: That was mostly because of fuel choice which was not a decision by the USSR but lead scientists who had complete authority. They also lost their top guy in a botched operation:

  8. 1960 Soviet control software was more primitive than the US ones. Computers has come an long way. Another fail source is turbopump fails, taking out the other engines then the blades start flying, you can armor against this and if you use steel you can just design the trust structure to also work as armored bulkheads.

  9. Depending on that they wanted to learn.
    The world is way more complex than it need to be for simply studying humans.
    If you limited to 19th century knowledge cells would be your smallest units.
    And even if they knew the distance to the closest stars you could easy fudge this.

    Or Musk might be the player of the game and we are NPC 🙂

  10. I’ve said as much myself; Untapped uranium ores, and the water is already substantially enriched in deuterium, due to so much of it having been lost. CANDU reactors would be absurdly easy to build on Mars.

    But that’s for the colonists themselves to do. It’s probably politically easier to supply the colony with solar power. And if that’s your source of power, it should be in orbit.

  11. Yes. I’m optimistic we’ll work something out, but I expect we won’t be able to just move in to a Mars habitat without health complications.

  12. Deliver to an inner solar orbit, direct optically pumped IR lasers. With the appropriate optical cavity mirror components in place, even the solar atmosphere ions can become a laser medium.

    Supply raw laser light power to anywhere in the solar system. Employ a frequency-multiplier medium to transform IR to a higher frequency light for a huge reduction of scale for the optical components to manipulate the beam. Direct drive of light-craft propulsion becomes feasible.

    Use the optical power to drive the direct reduction process for producing magnesium from it’s oxide. A renewable energy process for portable power based upon generating hydrogen from water oxidation of magnesium was explored in Japanese research of a decade ago.

  13. I remember a story in which one of the subplots was a simulated civilization that was wondering why none of their rockets could get above the atmosphere. They just blinked out of existence above a certain altitude.

  14. Long term, right. Short term, some backup nuclear power is unavoidable. (also, for external planets, Starship with
    solar panels extended at Saturn can only serve artistic
    purposes, or to warm Captain’s feet.)

  15. For me the only outstanding issue is biomedical surprises. Otherwise we’ll just engineer our way to a permanent presence on/below the surface.

  16. “There wouldn’t be a use for personal computers in the next decades” and “There wouldn’t be a use for that many rockets in the next decades” are the same thing; the reason why we don’t see demand for that many rockets yet is because it couldn’t be satisfied anyway.

    All these ideas that people have about what we could manufucture in space, where we could live, and many other unforeseen breakthroughs will become commercial demand as soon as SpaceX starts manufacturing at scale.

  17. Go Elon!!! We all read The Expanse and The Foundation and are watching you. You will go down in history books!

  18. Surely only if the simulation goes up 100x resolution everywhere simultaneously. A more efficient simulator would perhaps only scale up resolution where a microscope is looking, to limit the resource hit.

  19. Mars. Dust. Solar panels.
    I guess window cleaner will be the most common profession on Mars (for humans or robots). Looking at the existing, water free cleaning robots for desert installations, they seem to be tethered and equipped with rotating brushes.
    Anyone know how abrasive Marsian dust is?
    Moon regolith is supposed to be really bad.

  20. Seriously, given the dust storms, he should use SPS to provide the power. Or face them being shut down randomly for weeks or months at a time. Rectennas will work even covered with dust.

    Mars is perfect for SPS; Synchronous orbit is much closer to the ground, and the lower isolation can be compensated for by using very light weight thin film concentrating mirrors.

  21. My understanding is that there were originally heaps of agricultural native tribes. This structure broke down under the influence of both multiple plagues that spread from earlier European contact and sealions, as well as the addition of new technology (horses) that made hunting far more productive.

    And even so, this doesn’t change the point. Someone else comes along with more advanced tech, says that you are just wasting the territory you have because you aren’t exploiting it correctly according to their culture, and pushes you out.

  22. Nice video.

    For the first 2/3 I was wondering “Why are they only showing the first few seconds of each launch? What are they not showing?”

    Then we see in the final 1/3.

  23. I think the way to crank up the resources needed by
    the simulation, would be improved instrumentation.

    Go to Mars, sure the simulation now needs to do another planet in extra detail. Less than a factor of 2. But invent the microscope and now everything needs to be 100x the resolution in one step.

  24. If not Mars, then wherever it is, the Starship architecture gets us there much sooner and efficiently than any alternative. Which is ultimately the real point of Mars. Getting us out of the gravity well and past the point of no return in terms of self-sustaining BEO presence.

  25. It’s a matter of tonnage. A single Starship flown once a quarter (a launch rate that SpaceX has already achieved with the falcon family) could out-lift on a per-dollar or total-weight basis every other operation rocket family on the planet combined. Will they ramp up to two ships a week next year, No. Dose that matter, No.

    Give me a Starship and a place to fuel it and I can move the world. TO MARS!

  26. Stainless Steel Starships, rolling off assembly lines – goodbye Rust Belt, hello rust-colored plains of Mars. This sounds way too hokey – how can it possibly come true? SpaceX seems to be so nimble and agile in changing course, who’s to say that these current plans won’t be discarded just as quickly as they were announced? Is this vision credible? Why or why not?

  27. Errr… doesn’t the history of the settlement of the “west” (presumably the west of North America) actually demonstrate the opposite?

    The people who got there first lost all the land when someone with better weapons and social organisation showed up.

  28. This suggests we will see an example of the Starport Sea platform sooner rather than later cuz the main Commercial mass use of Starships is fast intercontinental cargo transport.

  29. This seems right. They now hope to adapt existing automation for building water and oil tanks and unlike other aerospace Elon has a LOT of mass production automation experience and resources. Some of this is just bringing Auto industry knowledge of manufacturing to aerospace. The Raptors and other complex parts just get shipped In from Hawthorne. 500 people can probably build the stainless tanks using automation and bolt on the Engines and fins. 100 Starships a year seems ridiculous but if they cost $5M each, Elon can afford to build them just to line them up as a cool looking Art Project.

  30. “The first 5 SuperHeavy Starships sent to Mars” should probably just be Starships. SpaceX isn’t sending any Superheavy boosters to Mars.

  31. Thanks it’s nice when people can handle admitting they made an error without making it personal.

    SpaceX has said in private that the public would think they’re crazy if the public knew what SpaceX was working on IOW how far along they are.

    Remember that the Spaceship started out as a water tower, built by water tower manufacturers, and that so far a lot of what manufacturing we’ve seen in the open can be replicated to a non negligible extent on Mars. Take off and landing, manufacturing, etc, done in (for rocket engineering) relatively dirty environment.

  32. But… but I know everything… D:

    Nah, you’re totally right. I shouldn’t pretend to know exactly how far ahead of anyone else a private company or government might be in their R&D. In fact, seeing as I’m one of those people who believes we already have already developed warp-capable spacecraft (which I also can’t prove lol) and am usually considered crazy for thinking so, I really should shut the heck up. xD

    I just saw that number, two starships per week, and it blew my mind. But, I suppose it also depends on the efficiency of manufacturing, doesn’t it? And, from what I can tell, SpaceX has proven themselves to be quite efficient.

    I WANT SpaceX to be able to pump our a fleet of ships and be able to begin colonizing Mars within the next couple of years. I think my brain just doesn’t know what mass production of that kind of craft would look like, so my knee jerk reaction was to think it fanciful. Hmm. Knee jerk reactions can be dangerous… >_>

  33. It doesn’t matter if Starlink can or cannot support funding the construction of two Starships per week, it just doesn’t make any sense to waste that money. For what ?, what would you do with them ?.

    You don’t need them to launch those 42,000 satellites. An Starship can put 400 Sarlink satellites per launch, this means that you only need one hundred launches to put them all in orbit. One hundred launches is the reusability of a single Starship. What would you do with the other 103 that you would have built on the same year ?.

  34. SpaceX alone wants to launch 42,000 satellites as fast as they can manufacture them. The revenue from those satellites will easily support $10M/week in rocket construction even if they generate no revenue at all.

  35. Even if it works exactly as advertised, the launch capacity would be getting much too far ahead of demand.

    I predict a lot of mothballed Starships somewhere, until demand catches up.

    The 737 Max not withstanding, Boeing *knows* it has a customer for every plane it builds…

  36. A vacation perhaps? 🙂

    Nah. It shows that you have your Moon perpetual life support system running really well…as advertising for making more of them on the Moon.
    It also shows that you can dream and accomplish. Not exactly bragging rights…just meeting a challenge. But one person’s accomplishment is another’s ego stroking.

    The Moon is set to become Alaska. Mars…Antarctica.

    What I mean by that is that you can extract resources from the Moon. Mars is just too far for that. Nothing is that scarce. But science will be done.

    Believe it or not, but we can actually explore Mars on the Moon. Some of the meteorites that have hit it in the past are chunks of Mars from stuff thrown into space when something big has hit Mars in the past…possibly even ejecta from extreme volcanism. There would certainly be pieces of Earth from similar impacts. Some perhaps are pieces of Earth tectonic plates that no longer exist. There is a lot of science, engineering, and resource extraction to do on the Moon.
    Pieces of Mars have hit the Earth too…but with the Moon having no atmosphere, the quality of the material will be much better for study. The Moon probably has meteorites from just about anything you could break a chunk from in the Solar System. Analyzing these and matching these up is going to be fantastic.

  37. << we are not going to colonize Mars or any other planet, pretty much ever. There is simply no need to do so. >>

    There’s no need for many other things that get done anyway, here on Earth where spatial and material scarcity sucks the life out of many big projects. Whereas BEO there’s effectively infinite amounts of space and matter to exploit.

    And you cannot extrapolate to “never”. Even 100 years from now is basically beyond the predictability horizon.

  38. Why is it fanciful? At 5M$ per Starship.
    It’s not like those ships are going to be underused.

    Also you do not know the extent of their Mars R&D, to evaluate it as lacking.

  39. I have had that thought in regard to computing. If there is a simulation, perhaps we could start to sap the resources of the system if we made lots of super powerful computers? Perhaps becoming an itch the universe decides to scratch.
    Not probable, but fun thinking.

  40. I think they need to develop a larger engine. Maybe three to six times as much thrust. I think having a lot of engines is too many potential points of failure. A large engine can have a comparable number of parts which relative to thrust is a lot less parts. The pluming can also get complex and it can be easy to miss something.
    I think this is one of the factors in the Soviets loosing: the Space Race to the Moon. The N-1 had 30 engines, I think.

    Not a trivial investment, but I think it needs to be done. I think production can be faster and cheaper than the equivalent number of small engines. Just the R&D and the tooling would be costly.

    Just the routine inspections are much more involved when you have so many engines.

  41. Mass production is smart. The demand is not here right now. True but once Starship is a proven design and can land on Mars or Moon or more then demand will come in short order. It will be a race with the other nations i.e. China rushing to copy and get themselves a piece. It truly will be a space race driven by the ole ancient rule that possession is 99% of the law. Very simply landing a ship and marking out the boundaries will be ownership just like the US push west were settlers surveyed and marked to claim have their land in the west. Mars or the Moon surface is just like earth all land is not created equal claiming the resource rich areas first will determine who truly controls the development of the bases.

    There is allot of valuable things in space that could be claimed that will take decades to develop into cash cows but once claimed the rest can follow later. The asteroid belt I would expect to be literal gold mine of raw resources open to claim.

    Then of course spacex will take over the NASA budget for launches and I would predict a good portion of the DOD budget for both launches and a weaponized bomber+patrol version.

  42. Other than bragging rights, what does going to Mars accomplish? Maybe pure science for the sake of science, but not much else, unless I’m missing something. And no, we are not going to colonize Mars or any other planet, pretty much ever. There is simply no need to do so. Earth is not running out of stuff, and by the time limited resources become expensive we switch to the next cheapest alternative. We are advancing to a time when we will make things at the molecular level. We can throw in a soup of H and C and make the hydrocarbons we need rather than pump them out of the ground. We got nothing back from going to the moon that we couldn’t have accomplished without going to the moon. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have gone. There just no real reason to get to Mars in the next 10 years.

  43. Sounds rather fanciful. Of course, if SpaceX feels poised to overtake international air travel with faster flights, then MAYBE. But, 3K employees and 2 starships every week sounds bunk. I’ll believe that when it happens. Even if they do pull that off, they don’t yet have the equipment to begin Mars colonization. So, building a big fleet could just be their step 1.

    I would love them to use Starlink to fund deepsea Europa and Ganymede missions, too. Imagine how much of an upset there would be if a private company was the first to discover aquatic life elsewhere in the solar system BEFORE a government. It would be glorious and hilarious.

    Then, they would have TWO major breakthroughs under their belt: Colonization of Mars AND finding off world life.

  44. I doubt that would happen. 😉 If we’re living in a simulation, then whoever built it would have shut it off a LONG time ago if they weren’t curious to see how far we get. “Uh oh, they made it to nukes, pull that plug.”

  45. Sorry, but no, as much as I love mankind going into space, I don’t believe that next year is going to exist a demand for 2 new Starships per week, a rocket that it’s not dispensable and will fly many times.

    There certainly is not a market for dozens of heavy satellite launches per week, and I don’t believe that many people would want to fly intercontinental flights on a rocket either : too dangerous and too physically demanding, …

  46. A hundred of these a year would probably mean you need a couple dozen launchpads per year too. Landing pads you can reuse easier. All you have to do is move the rockets. Launching means fuel storage, pumps, and lots of electronic stuff.

  47. The title and the content conflict. 3,000 working on making the factory, not making rockets in the factory. That many people making the rockets would almost certainly make them more expensive than $5 million each…unless production was much faster than indicated. I suspect 1,000-1,500 factory workers. Possibly 500 if they automate extensively. Might need some big bots though.

  48. Ha, this will be an interesting decade in space.

    What I like about these guys is that they show dedication on doing the parts that matter towards their boss’ stated goal: going to live on Mars with a helluva lot of cheap reusable rockets+landers!

    We have never seen such pragmatic lunacy at work in any actual space program, and that’s probably why they will succeed while NASA et al continue remembering their old glories, making new boondoggles and promising we’ll see something by the 2030s/40s.

    Fine then, they will have many people and business waiting for them when they arrive (if ever).

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