SpaceX is planning Starship and Raptor engine gigafactories. In 2021, Elon Musk plans to scale the workforce at Boca Chica to 3,000 employees to eventually manufacture two SpaceX starships every week. There are currently 300 employees. This manufacturing rate will be comparable to the speed of construction of commercial wide-body airplanes.
Elon has said that mass production will bring the cost of the Starship down to $5 million. There will be six Raptor engines. This means the mass production of Raptor engines at less than $1 million per engine.
Larger buildings are being built in Boca Chica to shelter the construction. There will need to be a lot more buildings and a lot more heavy equipment to speed construction.
There will need to be more factories to build the Raptor engine and the conversion of the existing Merlin rocket engine factory to Raptor engines.
Elon Musk has the Tesla experience where he successfully built factories and scaled mass production.
SpaceX is Bringing the Hypersonic Age
The Starship will be reusable hypersonic vehicles. The Starship can fly at mach 15 to mach 26. The Super Heavy Starship will be more expensive but heavier payload capacity hypersonic vehicles.
SpaceX will be ahead of all those trying to build hypersonic airplanes.
Blue Origin is targeting 2021 for commercial orbital launches New Glenn rocket as a first stage reusable Falcon Heavy class rocket. The first SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch was made in February 2018. If Blue Origin is successful and on schedule with New Glenn then Blue Origin would be three years behind SpaceX.
China has several space rocket startups that are performing SpaceX Grasshopper or Falcon 9R style launches.
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.
102 thoughts on “SpaceX Plans Starship Gigafactories to Introduce the Hypersonic Age”
damn ur a clever man
So flat-Mars believers will not be allowed to go? 😀
Massive amounts of really cheap launch capacity only makes sense if there are massive amounts of really cheap payloads to soak up that capacity.
If Starship works as advertised, and comes in roughly on schedule as advertised, Starlink is a source of really cheap payloads, but only for a short amount of time. Ultimately, Starship’s success relies on somebody drinking the Kool-Aid enough to disrupt the payload market. Until that happens, nobody’s going to be building hundreds of Starships.
How about Starship production and refurbishment.
“The Starship will be reusable hypersonic vehicles.”
OK, let’s do the math on this.
Right now, a 120 t dry mass vehicle with 1200 t of prop and 6 2 MN engines has a thrust-to-weight ratio of 0.93, even without any payload. So that’s not even getting off the ground with a full load of prop.
You’d need 9 Raptor engines to get to a T/W of about 1.4. Even with that, and assuming an average Isp of 350 in the sea-level-to-vacuum regime you’d need for a suborbital flight, a 10 t payload and the current wet mass will generate about 7970 m/s of delta-v. A T/W of 1.4 usually gives you about 1400 m/s of gravity and aero drag, and you’ll need about 300 m/s of delta-v to land, so you have a usable impulsive delta-v of 6270 m/s.
That’s good for about 6100 km of great circle distance around the Earth. Things get complicated from here, because heading and launch latitude are important for figuring out how much you get to add or subtract from that point impulse in terms of Earth’s rotational speed, but that’s only enough to get you from New York to Western Europe.
To get from New York to Shanghai, you’d need a Starship with the same dry mass and room for 3000 t of prop.
I’ll buy this hypersonic point-to-point nonsense with a two-stage vehicle, but a Starship SSTSO is silly.
Sell them to the USAF as Orbital Bombers. A B-2 can only carry 10 tons of ordinance, this would carry 10 times that and cost a lot less to both build and operate. A B-2 is 1 billion per plane and a bombing run from Virginia to the Middle East with ordinance cost is about 5 million for 15-20 hours of flight at 100-120k per hour, aerial refueling at 250k per go (needs to fuel twice) and 10 tons of bombs runs about a 1-2 million for precision guided stuff.
Though based on my calculations, the extra light pollution should be negligible even without special measures, at least in terms of the total added light intensity. 100K 10×10 m sats at ~300 km altitude should be only 1/25000 the visual area of a full moon, in total.
The total added brightness should have a similar ratio, though it would also depend on their albedo, which I didn’t factor in. But even if their albedo is 100 times higher than the moon, that’d still be 1/250 of a full moon’s brightness.
You’d have a bunch of tiny dots crossing the sky all the time – maybe not even visible to the naked eye – but it still won’t be much brighter than today.
But they can minimize the down-facing albedo and area to reduce that further. The only thing that has to face down is the antenna.
<< esp if SpaceX takes measures to minimize it. >>
I expect that this is what’ll make or break it strictly in this respect. Astronomers and astrophotographers’ approval.
It’s not like in other respects they won’t also benefit.
That’s cool. It is not going to satisfy people who have lived their whole lives with a clean night sky.
You will be able to open an app and pay low amount of $ per hour of use of an orbiting telescope.
I’ve done a bit of sky photography some years ago, so I know what the streaks look like. But the satellites move a lot faster than any astronomical objects. So they can be removed similar to this technique:
In our case, we have satellites instead of people, but the principle is the same.
In practice, it’s somewhat more involved, since you want longer exposures (with a proper star tracker) and you want to sum the constant bits to get as much light and details as you can. But the idea is similar.
This discusses the process in more detail, and more specifically to satellite streaks: https://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-blogs/imaging-foundations-richard-wright/satellites-begone-how-to-remove-satellite-trails-from-your-astrophotography/
You haven’t looked at the streaks the small number of sats are already making. Go and actually see an astronomer or honest strophotographer.
Everything else I already said so it’s repetition at this point
Not sure what the size of starlink sats is, but 100K 10×10 m sats at ~300 km altitude would take up less than 2e-6 percent of the sky area, when viewed from Earth. The moon takes up 0.05%, 25000 times more area. So I think the light pollution would be negligible, esp if SpaceX takes measures to minimize it.
As for light streaks, if you take multiple short-to-medium exposures, you can use clever image processing to eliminate them, while enhancing everything else. Something like average out pixels that have large variance between exposures, and sum pixels that have low variance. It’s similar to the trick used to remove crowds from photos of tourist attractions.
us military want use to bay starlink style /small, low orbit, numerous/ observation satellites
they just unable to buy, before now
The units of bad argument is a valid principle but does not follow this thread of posts. City light pollution is a thing already. Starlink is not. City light pollution is something managed by mostly space and sci-tech indifferent if not antagonistic people, Starlink is not; viz Musk himself saying they’re working on improving their night sky pollution.
City light pollution can be eliminated by moving around on the surface of the Earth, even if some cities (the one I live in now) require more travel than others.
‘Lets fix the worse and more prevalent problem first’ is a non sequitur here, just like saying we shouldnt go to space because people are still starving.
I think the answer is now clear.
I can’t see any reason that building a space station from Mars would be cheaper or easier than building one from Earth.
Yes, it’s less energy to reach LMO than LEO from the surface, but every single other thing, even making fuel, would be more expensive.
Made up numbers.
“But O’Neill’s vision isn’t so obviously superior to every other approach to space colonization, under every situation and by every metric, that it can’t be rational to do anything else!” I am only arguing that O’Neill’s vision, that we should do things in Space rather than on Earth, is true. This leaves all sorts of things open. O’Neill presents *laws of Physics*, not fine details.
Mars seems to be the exact wrong thing, however, being a largish planet, the very thing we are trying to leave, and we are not even there!
And absolutely certainly not to, in practice, prevent us “to do anything else!”. Lunar ISRU is the key, not Earth launch to Mars.
It will all happen in time. Just don’t do Mars First/Direct/Only, the exact thing we have had since the 70’s, totally until quite recently. Do stuff that benefits Earth, such as Space Solar, first. Mars is not relevant for this, just an expense. To ignore Moon, which is the start of O’Neill, for 40 years for the Mars *stuff* is THE big problem. It continues, like an addiction. Perhaps a territorial thing, some cannot imagine not *in control* of where they live, on something.
Yes, there are materials you can bring to where you want to build, in some cases with very little delta V. But you do have to bring them there, if you don’t build where they are. And most of the time it’s just random rock, while on a planet or large asteroid you can go looking for ore deposits.
Look, I’m a fan of O’Neill’s vision, I even helped found a chapter of the L-5 society back in the 70’s. I’ve put considerable thought into how to build those things in real life.
But O’Neill’s vision isn’t so obviously superior to every other approach to space colonization, under every situation and by every metric, that it can’t be rational to do anything else!
“You wouldn’t build the ISS on Mars. That’s the point.” I agree!
Only if you start with a requirement for being on Mars for settlement will you consider creative solutions. That is clear bias, very common and unconscious.
“You can make Spectra (Oriented long chain polyethylene.) out of CO2 and H2O, very simply, it’s just a secondary reactor using the output of your fuel factory as its input.” Same with the C and water on Moon, but much easier. (The Moon is somewhat closer.)
“It’s not like the ISS, a collection of absurdly expensive bespoke modules hauled into orbit around a planet that barely has low enough gravity for it to even be possible for chemical rockets to make orbit. On Mars you’d be building with Martian materials.” You are not on Mars, you are neither on the Moon. Once there, the Moon has the advantage of no atmos to have to launch thru, more like the advantage of free Space, and much closer!
“In orbit you can’t build with orbital materials, there aren’t any. THAT is the big advantage of planets, (Yes, and asteroids.) over Earth orbit: There’s stuff there already.” Asteroids ARE in Space, lunar dirt is close with mass driver. Please check your facts!
You are grasping at straws. Surely you know there are NEOs, TCOs, and mass drivers for airless moons, such as ours.
I think he is almost certainly aware of O’Neill, (Scratch that, he’s perfectly aware of O’Neill.) he’s just decided to do something else.
He wants to go to the mass, not bring the mass to an empty orbit.
You wouldn’t build the ISS on Mars. That’s the point. You can make Spectra (Oriented long chain polyethylene.) out of CO2 and H2O, very simply, it’s just a secondary reactor using the output of your fuel factory as its input.
Once on Mars all you need for living space is large plastic bags, probably with internal stays, build to hold say 0.8 bar with a decent safety margin. You don’t need to bring them to Mars, you bring the plastic bag factory to Mars. Probably with at least a layer or two of sandbags to protect against wear from wind blown dust. You don’t have to worry about being hit by space debris moving faster than a rifle bullet.
It’s not like the ISS, a collection of absurdly expensive bespoke modules hauled into orbit around a planet that barely has low enough gravity for it to even be possible for chemical rockets to make orbit. On Mars you’d be building with Martian materials.
In orbit you can’t build with orbital materials, there aren’t any. THAT is the big advantage of planets, (Yes, and asteroids.) over Earth orbit: There’s stuff there already.
There’s no reason to think it, and there’s no reason to be confident. My opinion is that we should check before going ahead with expensive plans that rely on it being true. You could launch a partial gravity research facility with one Falcon Heavy launch.
1 how do you know I’m not
2 why is it a binary as your choice of words imply?
3 sats can’t be fixed by walking or driving out of the city
Long term human habitability is limited to partial pressures of oxygen of at least 70 mmHg. This is 47% of sea level on Earth.
So clearly not everything is logarithmic.
Maybe Trump is gonna announce that the US Govt is gonna start issuing Mars land titles. 1 acre with each return ticket to Mars. That would create some demand!
Starship changes everything. Probably far more than we can even realize sitting here just before it all starts. With all the new communications & robotics & energy tech converging with the sudden easy access to space and the vast coffers of the 1% – for the next 40 years we will be watching slack jawed in wonderment.
We might get some votes for virus research.
Of course it’s like air travel. That’s the point.
Unless you are dealing with a flight time of at least 5 hours or more, it’s a waste of resources trying to get the actual flight to be faster.
You’d get faster door to door times putting in a better security check than a faster aircraft.
Remains to be proven.
I mean it sort of looks that way, but if I was planning this out this would still be in the category where we need at least full detailed engineering study to the level of a components list (real components, meaning Suppliers and part numbers, not a vague description of what is needed.)
Even better would be one prototype test structure made before that is classified as a safe assumption.
Given that any asteroid colony would need extensive radiation shielding under the best of circumstances, they may well be survivable even in a gamma ray burst.
Especially if the approach used was to tunnel inside and build the colony under a couple of dozen metres of nickel-iron.
Out of a current experimental sample size of 1, we currently have evidence that planets don’t scale beyond populations of maybe 10 billion.
So eventually …
If the man with a hammer plans ahead, he can build a whole house just using nails.
How much more expensive is Mars than mass driver on Moon, to ELEO?
How much more expensive would ISS on Mars be than ISS?
I am, personally, an asteroid colony enthusiast: Asteroids are far enough from Earth to escape most extinction events short of gamma ray bursters, they have mass, (For largish asteroids, even hydro-thermal mineral deposits!) you can build O’Neil colonies at the asteroids much easier than around earth.
But the per-capita infrastructure requirements are clearly higher than for a Mars colony. And that matters, until we have self-reproducing factories.
“The bigger the settlements, the more wrong this statement gets.”
No, not really; On Mars, a habitat isn’t much more than a large plastic bag, where the plastic can be made from local materials. Basically all you have to do is hold in the air, the native temperature is such that waste heat alone will be enough to keep you warm, there’s a day/night cycle that matches our circadian rhythm, the radiation environment isn’t horrible, there are abundant materials right there, and already sorted by hydro-thermal processes, and there’s gravity.
In space, you need very substantial structure to allow for enough gravity to maintain health. (Yes, I am assuming Mars gravity is sufficient in this regard, and I’m not terribly comfortable with that assumption. If it’s wrong, the calculus shifts in favor of space due to large centrifuges being easier to construct in vacuum and zero G.) There’s no material present, you have to import all of it. The radiation environment is inhospitable, this requires even more material for shielding.
Now, in the long run, space wins, because planets have a horrible ratio of surface area to mass, piling up mass is a horribly inefficient way of providing gravitational acceleration compared to centrifuges. Planets don’t scale.
But you have to get through the short run to reach the long run, and I think there’s a good case to be made that if you want a second basket in which to put mankind’s eggs, and you want it ASAP, Mars is the place to go.
I agree…. But for one aspect:
This kind of picture won’t be possible anymore. I can’t agree enough to oppose Starlink and everything Starlink is precursor to, but the more I think about it the more I agree that the night sky is a global heritage item on par with any of the wonders of the world.
So maybe my tentative real opinion is that Starlink is ok for now, but as soon as we’ve killed the gravity well barrier, Starlink needs to go unless by then it has become a non issue in this very specific respect.
Yes, that’s unavoidable.
The number of light streaks due to satellites on astronomical photos will increase significantly.
That’s not the end of astronomy, though. Far from it.
Astronomy will find easier and cheaper access to space to be liberating, with possibly many more telescopes in space upcoming.
But they’ll have to look through a computer screen to avoid the visual noise. And yes, it doesn’t feel the same.
To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
I call my compiler a gigafactory.
In general I agree that it is hard to see what would justify so many Starships, mostly because I don’t accept the “will replace airline travel” sales pitch.
Sending two Starships to the moon every day would require quite a few be built.
He should build the first factory on the moon.
Which is a lot like major airport travel now.
Yes I was thinking that. But:
1) I’m still on the fence about whether there’s more positive than negatives even though I’m sure of the positives which are literally astronomically huge (we bring the solar system in our reach)
2) But I’ll believe it when it realizes
3) It still sucks for people on the ground who can’t just look at the sky anymore.
Most everybody for the last 40 years. I was there in the meetings, watching in horror.
“For example, I understand their choice of methane for Raptor comes from the potential of ISRU refueling and making the rockets reusable (fuel autonomy).” on Mars. Not on Moon.
“Also building orbiting space stations for permanent habitation (e.g. not just for some vacations) would take far longer than having the same on Mars.” The bigger the settlements, the more wrong this statement gets.
“The time it would take to have things done for allowing permanent human habitation might have been a strong deciding factor on the choices made. Sames as politics and the chances of the settlement to survive without the home world’s support.” O’Neill makes the other choice, and relys on basic Physics. Counter intuitive. I used to feign intererest in Mars, then argue that *even then* we go to Moon first. For 40 years, because nobody would stay once O’Neill was brought up. Now, I’ve helped win Moon first, so can go to the more difficult task, overcoming planetary bias.
“If you find yourself saying “The people who are the world leaders in spaceflight don’t understand this simple concept about space that I know and that has been widely known for decades” then you should stop and try again.”
I will stick to the obvious, no matter how counter intuitive. We do not want to expand or live on planets, not Earth, certainly not Mars. I let others catch up while I continue informing.
True, but would be nice if the good stuff were intentionally pursued rather than accidental. Mars is a total waste of time for settlement.
He is not against O’Neill, he is ignorant of O’Neill.
Get enough space telescopes up there and there’s no reason amateurs couldn’t afford them.
“Caring about X more than Y” is not the same as “Against Y.”
Musk will certainly continue the commercial launch business, at a much lower price per kg than now, which will enable everything else people care to do in space.
He’s aiming at the most difficult thing he can think of. He might not hit it head on, but along the way he’ll develop tools for it that will serve various ancillary purposes. Lowering the cost of exiting Earth’s gravity well is up there.
You have to admit amateur (iow anyone who can’t afford user time on those telescopes) astrophotography is going to feel it.
LEO market: why risk orbital debris around the single unique place in the whole universe that we can’t afford to have it?
Starship, at 5M$ per, makes the ISS status quo as outdated as it should be by now in 2020. You can get something the size of the ISS for a relatively tiny fraction of the price and complexity, in Earth orbit or as far as Jupiter or Saturn, in a fraction of the build time, etc.
This is how it should have been a long time ago already.
How does something like Starship, on its own and more so as a direct improvement on all previous bloated space architectures, not fit in any conceivable path BEO?
Any path forward requires making access to orbit affordable if not a negligible expense.
Come on. Apples to apples..
Speaking of Starlink- everyone complaining that these swarms of satellites will ruin astronomy.
Except for the fact that lowering launch costs opens up cheap access to space telescopes.
You are bringing some very good points.
We know SpaceX people tend to think things through.
For example, I understand their choice of methane for Raptor comes from the potential of ISRU refueling and making the rockets reusable (fuel autonomy).
Same as their choice of steel as building material: they want to be able to fix of modify the starships wherever they are, without depending on Earth’s facilities (repair work autonomy).
The same ought to apply to other elements of their choices.
Maybe LEO or even L5 space stations would be too encumbered with Earthly politics and also, more in risk of suffering any TEOTWAWKI event.
Also building orbiting space stations for permanent habitation (e.g. not just for some vacations) would take far longer than having the same on Mars.
The time it would take to have things done for allowing permanent human habitation might have been a strong deciding factor on the choices made. Sames as politics and the chances of the settlement to survive without the home world’s support.
So “giga gactory” just means “big factory” these days? Or is there actually a definition including a billion of something?
Forget economics and logistics, not even the basic times add up.
2 hours travel to remote space port plus 3 hours check-in and security plus X time actually travelling plus 1 hours immigration and baggage collection plus 2 hours travel to actual destination.
Actual travel time X needs to be negative 7 hours to get 1 hr p2p.
Most bitcoin apps and most potty training end up looking and smelling identical.
Could I please have a reference for this “too little CO2 in the air almost eradicated mankind”?
If you find yourself saying “The people who are the world leaders in spaceflight don’t understand this simple concept about space that I know and that has been widely known for decades” then you should stop and try again.
Much more likely is that SpaceX know a bunch of stuff that you don’t know.
Now this may not be physical science stuff!
— This might be political (the major governments have let it be quietly known that you aren’t getting sovereignty in the Earth-Luna system?)
— This might be commercial (regardless of the science, there are ~13 people with the money who want to move to LEO, and 37 000 who will pay to move to Mars)
— This might be physical (huge underground ice caves on Mars that haven’t been publicly announced yet.)
— This might be ark related (the most likely TEOTWAKI issues that Musk is concerned about (nuclear war, major asteroid impact, solar flare) would all destroy any LEO colonies too.)
— This may be any manner of thing that I can’t make up on the spot during my lunch break.
IIRC Elon said he’s aiming for $250k per Raptor
Let’s not forget SpaceX came up with Starlink (low latency internet via low attitude satellites) and point to point hypersonic travel via Starship.
Obviously, at SpaceX they’ve been brainstorming what could be done in the short term with their heavy lift capacity in order to generate revenue.
They may have other cards they aren’t showing yet, for the next steps leading up to space colonies.
With SS, there is no escape if something goes wrong at launch. On the way back, far less has to happen. You only need a few of the engines, for eg, and have many spares. If not, aquabraking is even worse!
Who wouldn’t want p2p travel in under an hour anywhere in the world? However the economics and logistics don’t add up.
Unless you mean Soviet N-1 takeoff.
Spacex rockets generally take off without
I think Elon was joking, but not completely. There’s a hint of desperate chutzpah in all this enterprise.
He’s so hellbent on the quest of creating a backup planet for humanity, that he could pay for it from his own pocket, using Starlink or other sources of revenue.
That’s kind of insane, really, but nowadays he’s not waiting for others to act. He knows the clock is ticking for him and probably for humanity, and it seems he wants to see it done in person.
Alas, with NASA and the traditional space agencies, the big leap back to the Moon or towards Mars, looks as if it would never happen.
Therefore SpaceX could end up being the backer and trailblazer on this area, going there for the first time on their own and enticing others to come.
Personally, I salute them and wish them complete success. Any believer in space settlement will agree that this endeavor needed a lot more attention, and public space agencies were just going nowhere.
I was not aware of that. We have to ask ourselves what industries would benefit from space based manufacturing vs planet side.
Really? If engines don’t start at takeoff, you stay
put, if they don’t start at Landing (or if winglets
actuators don’t work), you can trust in lithobraking.
Seems a lot better than the takeoff!
For point to point Earth transportation I would build a shuttle-like
winged Starship able to land on runways. That powered landing
is Dangerous, let’s not hide it.
O’Neill argued that ISRU was the key, and Space Solar the initial cash cow. But the more that are doing stuff, the better off we are. Tourism alone may get us over the hump, so to speak.
For 40+ years I’ve been telling people to have children because in 20 years there will be a shortage of 20 year olds, so many going to Space! Now, perhaps a bit optimistic, but essentially correct, no?
Certainly true that Moon and Mars and O’Neill are NOT exclusive. Love Musk and his rockets.
“1: nothing says that Musk is against orbital factories, space habitats, Moon colonies, asteroid mining, etc.” I have no other explanation for his actions.
I just had been reading it. Just an example of no hint of any O’Neill stuff at all. Mars only.
There does seem to be a lack of plans. Hopefully this is just Elon holding his cards close to his chest. There has always been a blurry area in the early space development schemes, lots of potential, but not so clear how to start the ball rolling. So some clear plans would be quite handy right now. It was funny but telling that Elon suggested stealing underpants in his presentation in Mexico. There seems to be limited options. I guess the point to point hypersonic airline idea is a key stepping stone to get to higher production rates in a viable way, but we will see how that works.
Agree. The bottleneck will certainly be people capable of working in space, either understanding life in 0G, using a space suit or simply, knowing how to handle themselves in a Mars settlement with airlocks and space radiation limits (no anti-science stupidity allowed).
As reference, all countries of the world only produce a handful of astronauts per year. And even them are mostly specialists that don’t have the full spectrum of skills for everything that will be needed.
So, a lot of improvisation and intensive ‘on the job’ trainings will be needed.
Resulting in a somewhat reduced barrier of entry for being an astronaut (you’ll have to be competent, but not a super-genius) and plenty of opportunities for smart people.
The Starlink stroke of genius was to start mass producing satellites when no one else in the payload industry has realized that there has been a revolution in launch costs. Thus the cost of producing them comes down in synch with the cost of launching them. This can be applied to other space equipment whether it is planetary rovers, assembly bots, deep space Starlinks, deep space probes, space telescopes, mining bots for the moon and asteroids, space habitats, space solar, you name it. So if Elon starts Gigafactories for all of this stuff and rents or sells it to NASA or to Universities or whomever then this would get the ball rolling to take advantage of the lower launch cost and higher capacity. And go a long way to start the new space civilization.
He has shown disdain for SPS in the past.
But he can certainly change his mind when he starts looking for something that produces revenue and justifies all the launch capability (potentially millions of tons of mass per year to space) that SpaceX will provide if they are successful.
If Musk achieves his goal of mass producing 2 starships per week for 5 million $ each, there will be enough lift capacity for Mars colonization AND setting up an industrial infrastructure in space (tourism, mining asteroids), including building the first habitats in space, followed by O’Neill colonies.
Indeed, the bottleneck will no longer be lift capacity.
It will be people.
We will need many intelligent, competent people to build and inhabit these O’Neill colonies.
And given the reproduction rates in both european civilisation and eastern civilisation, we will have a critical shortage of people.
Unless we achieve the ancient dream of eternal youth. We are very close to understanding what causes the slow decline we know of as “aging”, and there are promising ideas on how to reverse it.
Musk seems to be interested in anything that can be scaled up with cheap access to space. I would not be surprised if he turned to space based solar power once Star Link was up and running.
“The Atlantic” isn’t what I’d consider a tech or business magazine. Their self-categorization is “Literature, political science, foreign affairs”. So… YMMV, but any time I see something like the Atlantic stepping outside their forte, my confidence in their opinion drops considerably.
(It’d be like NBF suddenly doing parenting articles on how to potty train with the latest Bitcoin apps. Don’t know about you, but I’d be a bit hesitant to take their advice.)
During the last Ice Age too little CO2 in the air almost eradicated mankind. Musk could create an endless freight line trucking more co2 to Earth from Venus.
One of the main points of the article was to call the StarShip a ‘Hypersonic Vehicle’ and to point out that it would have a heavier payload capacity than any planned supersonic airplane, and would also be available before any of those planned vehicles. So – an additional market would be available beyond orbital launch, i.e. point-to-point supersonic travel on Earth.
I do also think that there will be big money available once he proves out the low cost to orbit. Hotels & Tourism to begin with, followed by Solar Energy and manufacturing plants, and finally Lunar Mining stations to support rapid industrialization of orbital and deep space. Trillions of dollars to be made – who would want to pass that up?
I don’t believe they don’t understand.
I think it’s rather Elon Musk’s personal plan for having a backup planet, for avoiding human extinction and/or civilization collapse.
He really wants to see it done while he still lives.
The Starship/Superheavy AND what you do with those are two very different business.
Musk will want to go to Mars. Starlink will fund that. But…
1: nothing says that Musk is against orbital factories, space habitats, Moon colonies, asteroid mining, etc.
2: nothing at all prevents SpaceX from producing 2 Starships per week, one for Musk’s Mars colony vision, the other to sell or rent for space entepreneurs wanting to do stuff in orbit, in the Moon or Asteroids.
It’s hard to argue against O’Neill’s arguments, but neither Bezos (nor you) are him.
For me at least, any path outwards is a good one, and it doesn’t have to remain a single path either. The airplane makers don’t foresee all the many uses their airplanes will have, just a few and the market adapts.
The rockets that can send you and some cargo to Mars, can do it just as well to orbit and to the Moon. And they surely will be used for that.
I just find curious they don’t have more sensible plans for it. As if their goal is really Mars and the rest is gravy.
Space solar, on the Moon or at least using lunar/asteroidal material, 20-200tWe, sounds like a good use for many rockets, just to set up. Then get really rich and solve CO2 problem. Or, never mind!
“I just wonder why they act as if LEO or cislunar space aren’t an important potential market.” Simple. They do not understand that we can not perspicuously expand on a planet, such as Earth, or, obviously, Mars.
What you say is true of launch vehicles, not overall progress towards a better goal. If you do not agree with Bezos, O’Neill and me, that is your right. However, you cannot simply assume Mars is the goal, and then say that only those interested in Mars are ahead.
When they launch the first rocket to orbit, then they will be in a more equal footing with SpaceX.
Albeit, SpaceX will probably be eating up the space launcher market by then, with pricing that nobody could imitate.
BO are fully funded by a very generous boss, but they really need to star cranking out some fully reusable ships to be in the same league.
I’m among the excited about this.
I just wonder why they act as if LEO or cislunar space aren’t an important potential market.
Most people that could buy a ticket would be in the lower cost segments, and those will be trips to LEO.
Probably they count with the fact a single Starship is like an ISS’ worth of livable space all by itself, therefore any potential space tourists will be going, staying and returning on the same Starship.
Even cislunar trips can use the very same starships, just by refueling it in space. The lunar landing architecture may be a bit more complicated (requiring refueling on the surface for any sizable amount of return cargo).
Same for other many uses, that could be sent in a regular crewed Starship or fitted within its fairing.
Yep, seems the Starship will be their Conestoga wagon, adaptable for any conceivable use.
It doesn’t matter, the Musk said that he is going to scale it up nonetheless, some idiots get very excited by that.
I see big plans for ramping up production, but a lack of overall plans of what will justify all that launch capacity.
Not even Starlink will need 100 or so new starships per year, especially if these are reusable launchers with a payload of 150 tons to LEO.
Mass point to point transportation might be it, but that usage case will take some years to take off, because it depends on the rockets showing their safety.
I understand fuel launches will be a majority in this new paradigm of spaceflight. But what for?
The curious lack of space habs and factories in the plans makes me think they really want to sell tickets to go to Mars, use the rockets as landers and homes, bring solar panels a-plenty and then figure out the rest. Yes, quite literally pay the ticket and we move you to Mars!
It might just work, it’s just very much unlike any space program, where every part was over-analyzed and over-planned.
“Blue Origin would be three years behind SpaceX” only in this one factor. The Atlantic just concluded that there was no reason to go to the Moon, just go straight to Mars. A common belief, shared by Musk in the very important way that both have an ultimate goal of Mars. Bezos understands G. K. O’Neill, so is way ahead overall.
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