SpaceX Starship Hop Later This Week

Elon Musk has tweeted that SpaceX will Attempt the 150 Meter Starship prototype hop later this week.

There was also a video where SpaceX caught both fairing halves for the first time.

SOURCES – Elon Musk, SpaceX
Written by Brian Wang, (Brian owns shares of SpaceX)

52 thoughts on “SpaceX Starship Hop Later This Week”

  1. Seems like Musk’s attitude is ‘I don’t want it to go boom, but as long s we learn what not to do next time it’s okay.” NASA’s is “A boom is a failure we cannot tolerate. Spare no expense to avoid a boom of any kind.’

    Musk wants to build fast, test fast, find out what doesn’t work quickly and don’t do it again. He’s not constructing everything in a classic clean room – IMO he’s gone from the ‘accepted’ build practices that NASA’s been using over the decades to an industrial model that uses clean-room techniques only where needed, instead of for the entire assembly. Looking at his Boca Chica plant where they’re welding up tank and fuselage sections in basically tents – I’m thinking SpaceX is going to beat BO w/no problem. Might not be as ‘pretty’ as BO’s offerings, but they’ll work.

  2. You have to distinguish between what’s strategic and opportunistic; that’s what determines the design center of your system. SpaceX’s strategy with Starship was to enable a Mars transport business. That’s why Starship is so freakin’ huge, why it’s a methalox propulsion system, why it must be able to reenter and be reused, why there are so many engines on Starship, and why they’ve gambled so heavily on refueling.

    It turns out that a system designed for Mars can opportunistically do some decent things for lunar and Earth orbital missions, but it’s hardly an optimal design for those markets. That doesn’t mean that SpaceX won’t happily pull down as much business as they possibly can from those sectors, but it does leave some wiggle-room for competitors to beat them in those areas.

    Blue’s strategy is to be able to get 10-20t payloads to cis-lunar. That’s what informed their design center. They’re just making a heavy lift launch system that competes quite well with Falcon Heavy, and spending significant resources on lunar landers. I expect that the Blue Moon tech will also wind up acting as a tug to and from cis-lunar orbits. Ultimately, I think that Blue will turn out to be much more of an “in space” company than SpaceX, with the BE-7 being the crown jewel, rather than the BE-4.

    Just like with SpaceX, there are opportunities to do nifty stuff in Earth orbit with such a system, and they’ll happily compete for that business. But it’s not where they’re headed.

  3. America must return to the moon ‘as soon as possible’
    Harrison Schmitt
    July 24, 2020, 5:45 AM
    “There is no acceptable choice for America’s future but to return to the Moon to stay, and to do so as soon as possible.”
    Now, Harrison is a Blue Origin guy, so here is the competition!
    Do we have a Space Race!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. “dropping the name “O’Neill” Focus instead on promoting ISRU and space solar”. I’m 43 years ahead of you on that one. Even when I started seeing this blog several years ago, that is the tactic I took, supporting Moon then Mars as opposed to Mars First/Direct/Only. You would be astonished at how effective I had been by ~90, when the Houston paper reported a “renegade” group of NASA engineers wanting to return to the Moon, a few days after I told a very influential Mars person “If you are not using extraterrestrial resources, you are spinning your wheels”. But now, that is a winner, so I am pushing the envelope towards the bigger truth, O’Neill without Mars at all. If you saw NOVA “Return to the Moon”, you will see O’Neill is now inevitable, as the cat is now out of the bag in public. Simplicio is an amalgam of the stuff I have heard before, that is answered in the orig doc, so is a “straw man” not of my own creation, as the orig was. Perhaps you think I am trying to get votes. I am trying to inform the few that can understand. I can’t help the rest at this time, not directly.

  5. You’re really not getting your point across, that O’Neill is far more than just Island 3. And more generally, you’re so absolutely terrible at getting all your points across.. You say you’ve been doing this for 40 years, and you’re still this terrible at it. It’s almost painful to watch.

    And now you’re deteriorating to something like passive-aggressive ad hominem, calling people names. That will only antagonize them further, to you, and to your narrative by extension.

    I would suggest dropping the name “O’Neill” entirely from your arguments. Yes, he deserves credit, but the connotation with Island 3 is far too strong and pervasive. It’s counterproductive. Focus instead on promoting ISRU and space solar – and space industrial development more generally. Those are much more specific, easier to swallow, nearer-term, and ultimately lead to the same thing. If you must talk about colonies, focus on the near-term smaller ELEO ones. And definitely drop Simplicio.

  6. There is absolutely no outside support for a Mars mission. With the arrival of the Artemis program, there is a ton of external support for a lunar mission. SpaceX would be foolish not to ride the gravy train that is government funding for lunar missions in the middle part of this decade.
    Besides SpaceX has next to no experience with manned missions in space. If SpaceX got into the lunar game, they could learn a lot in a hurry that would set them up to have better success in Mars missions. SpaceX will be far better off if they focused on the moon in the near term while still keeping Mars as a long term goal. In either case, I highly doubt they can launch a manned mission to Mars until at least the latter half of this decade. Even if Mars was their only focus, the moon gives them a proving ground for later Mars missions and can be launched two to three years sooner.

  7. No, SpaceX is first betting on the telecom market. Spaceship really enables to Juggle tens or hundred of thousands of very low orbit satellites and supersede the whole internet architecture with space based relays. Concurrently, the military market is huge too : full spectrum monitoring, from IR to radio to optical, networked by starlink or a dedicated stealthier military communication network, kinetic space bombing. At the price Level SpaceX plans to operate starship, the Space Force will buy as many Starship that the AirForce has F22… And finally, going to Amazon jugular, I.e. launch computers in space to create starlink networked (again !) distributed datacenters.

  8. I am not opposed to that in general, but in the case of Mars v O’Neill, the deck is stacked soooo against O’Neill as to be outrageous, esp considering that O’Neill is correct! I am watching a PBS show about the twins, one in ISS for a year, and nothing but Mars. Remember, Musk is only one actor. Gov is Mars, Mars Mars only. SLS is Mars. ISS is Mars, for 0 g experiments, not needed for O’Neill. I used to feign interest in Mars, to get Mars people interested in Moon on the way, but now, Moon is getting started only four decades late, so I am shifting to all out anti planetarian stance. How about a middle path? We can split effort between Mars and Moon equally, making up for lost Moon time. BTW, this all excludes Mars science effort, just economic and population stuff, as well as preserving life. And not wasting any more time on planets!

  9. Read that back in the 70’s and have been an advocate of his ideas ever since. But that does not mean that I’m not open to other ideas for human expansion into space. There are many pathways opening up – we should explore as many as possible.

  10. Please read “the High Frontier”, (not just look at the cover!) and you will see that O’Neill Settlements are far superior to Mars at preserving the biosphere, and humans. Musk is lost in planetarianism, so his logic is circular. He starts out with a definition of success that requires planets, then sez only planets fulfill the needs. He does not see that there are other ways to solve the actual problem “multi-planet” would. If I ask how I can possibly get to the store in a Porsche, then a Mercedes will not do. But what if all I need is to get to store? Bezos and I have both been into O’Neill longer than Musk has been into Zubrin, the Mars First/Direct/Only guy. Zubrin now has Moon Direct plans, if you are interested. The asteroid Ceres has enuf material to build O’Neill Settlements with 200 times the total area of the Earth. Mars is too small to matter. Forget Mars.

  11. I’ve read that Musk is fixated on a set of goals he formulated while he was in University. One of them being that Humanity must become a ‘Multi-planet Species’. So to fulfill this goal, Mars makes sense, but O’Neill colonies, not being planets, do not. Perhaps the moon does not qualify either, hence his fixation on Mars as being the THE place for his colony.

  12. I have said I hope Bezos buys Musk rockets many times, so I agree with that. Also, the material is clearly not from Earth, because even if launch is free, we don’t have the material here in the first place, at the scale needed eventually. So yes, lunar and/or asteroidal, NEO or even TCO, ISRU. Then, the beneficial exponential growth could have started 40 years ago, as you say. See “The High Frontier” for exciting details! However, it could matter quite a lot were Musk to figure these bigger questions out, altho, it is not absolutely required for eventual success. Would really matter a lot to him personally tho!

  13. It does not matter if Musk EVER gets interested in building O’Neill colonies. What DOES matter is that he is building the CAPACITY for ANYONE to go ahead and build the colonies. I am positive that anyone with the capital will be able to purchase enough launch capacity, or outright buy Starships and Heavy Lifters from SpaceX to build whatever is needed to start O’Neill construction.

    Question: do you get materials for the cylinders from the Earth? Or are Lunar Mines, Mars based Mines or Asteroids the best source of building material? My guess is that a Lunar mining colony would be the most economic way to provide necessary bulk material – but I work from gut feelings not back-of-envelope calculations.

    Once the (exponential) economic feedback loop from industrial development in the Solar System begins – ALL settlement options are on the table and will be tried….floating cities on Venus anyone?

  14. Thank you so much! I had come up with a new idea, and this post is a great example right here. Introducing *Simplicio*, the planetarian, or, for old school people, the planetary chauvinist. Simplicio: “nobody is even close to the kind of scale that would make what you’re advocating possible.” So we should forget about starting ISRU? Space Solar? Simplicio has made this false argument many times, obviously unaware of the actual proposals of O’Neill. Have you read “The High Frontier”? Saying Island 3 is “O’Neill”, and therefore we cannot do O’Neill, is an old trick Simplicio plays upon himself, to avoid the obvious. I actually like Musk more than you say in middle para. “scolding people for being insufficiently adulating” is pure Simplicio! ignorance of O’Neill is no excuse! As you say, the idea is 50 years old! Get with it, already! Have you read “The High Frontier”? Do you think the answer to O’Neill’s question is important? Do you think the future of humanity and life is important? First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they downvote you, then they say it cannot possibly be true, denial, then they fight you, anger, then they say you may be right, but it is trivial, bargaining, then you win, depression, then they say they knew it all along, acceptance, then they say they thought of it first.

  15. Dan, if you haven’t made your point sufficiently, then that’s your fault, because you’ve tried to make it over and over and over and over. It’s not that we don’t understand what you’re saying. Indeed, I think that you’re probably right–in the long run, i.e., somewhere between 30 and 50 years from now. But you’re basically writing us a really long, tedious sci-fi novel at this point, because nobody is even close to the kind of scale that would make what you’re advocating possible.

    Meanwhile, you’re arguing that the way SpaceX has chosen to scale things is wrong for your particular sci-fi plot, or at least their business plan is insufficiently deferential to that plot. The reason for that is because they’re focused about 20 years sooner on the time horizon, and are trying to solve a problem that your sci-fi plot desperately needs to have solved.

    We get it: you think that a book written 45 years ago was the bee’s knees. But you scolding people for being insufficiently adulating is really, really annoying.

  16. Musk is very agile and deft in exploiting opportunities as they arise. As soon as NASA announced Artemis, we saw SpaceX quickly submitting their proposal for a lunar starship, and Musk was suddenly talking about ‘Moonbase Alpha’. SpaceX’s bid was accepted as one of the top 3, which also included Blue Origin in partnership with others. So SpaceX has enough drive, momentum and expertise to sweep the field, no matter what the target destination is.

  17. “Blue is betting big on the cis-lunar market; SpaceX is still ultimately a Mars” That is the heart of the matter. I fervently hope that Musk rockets are sooo good that Bezos throws in the towel and buys the service from Musk. Then, everybody would be using the best rockets! No prob there. All of the other posts in this chain, so far, have focused on the *bigger rocket* question, while ignoring the vast (or any) difference between the goals. The existence of two probably exclusive answers to the basic very important global question should be of far more importance. Especially when the historical background of the answers is so unfair!

  18. The question of whether Musk *understands* O’Neill is quite silly. By comparison to Elon Musk, Gerard O’Neill is an amateur with no achievement of note.

    You also seem to think “The high frontier” is hard to understand. Which is incorrect.
    The book proved building O’Neill colonies, structures man can live in, does not contradict any laws of physics. It did not solve the problems of the many significant technological innovations needed to acquire the capability to build them, or of the massive investments of resources needed to build them.

  19. From the orig doc: “They’ll be in prime position to build a moon base, which is a great dry run for a Mars base.” In other words, Musk (Rhinocerator, at least) has advanced to a bare minimum of my minimal ’77 position, that *even if* Mars is the big goal, we should go to the Moon first. I wanted more, to get O if nothing else. Now, after all these decades without a single lunar rover, or lander, we know there is H2O, so, duh! Ideally, ISRU in more ways than that. Secretly, I had O’Neill in mind. Don’t tell anyone. The question of whether Musk *understands* O’Neill is quite a good one, no? O’Neill’s question is obviously of overriding importance. So, there are three basic possible answers. Space easy winner, Earth easy winner, and 50-50. The 50-50 possibility would be utterly astounding. If it is as easy to live in Space as on Earth, go now!! I will not bother with the notion that Earth is easier than Space. Silly! But the clear answer: Space easy winner!! Mars not in picture, as clearly HARDER than Earth. Please avoid comments about O’Neill if you have not read “The High frontier”. It is highly counter intuitive. If you like ISRU or Space Solar, that is what I mean by “O’Neill”. And then some!

  20. I’m playing fast and loose with the numbers, but I don’t see anything that will prevent BO from getting 10t to the surface. It may easily require New Armstrong to do so, but payload to the lunar surface are going to be very small for the first few years. Blue has time to find the sweet spot.

    Note that SpaceX doesn’t care about the sweet spot. Starship is massively overdesigned for the Earth-orbital, cis-lunar, and lunar surface markets.

  21. I’m glad that Jeff and you have had this little heart-to-heart, and you’re such an expert on his plans.

    He’s not after timely results; he’s in it for the long haul.

    Remember, this is the guy who basically reinvested all of Amazon’s profits into infrastructure and building his market for more than ten years–and his investors were OK with that, because they understood the upside. This is a very, very patient guy. He may have the strategy wrong on Blue Origin, but your statement is silly.

  22. You still fail to get it.
    It’s not about me, or any other poster on this site.
    It’s about Elon Musk and his SpaceX inner circle. You are delusional if you think you match their expertise in space access and settlement.

  23. Actually, I have not yet made my point sufficiently, as you mistakenly identify O’Neill Island 3 (3rd generation) Settlement as “O’Neill”, when in fact “O’Neill” refers to the Physics of technological civilization, starting with such things as how easy it would be to move things around in 0 g, compared to 1 g, unavoidable on Earth. O’Neill is lunar or asteroidal ISRU, 40 years ago, for example. Space Solar soon thereafter. After you have read “The High Frontier”, or, if you have, after you have pointed out what is wrong with the points made, feel free to comment further. Until then, I can’t really help you any further.

  24. A little different, I suppose, but it still amounts to the same thing: While the slower racer can win the race if the faster racer doesn’t apply themselves, Blue Horizon is neither faster nor more diligent than SpaceX. They’re a tortoise faced with a manic hare running for all it’s worth.

    Bezos will certainly get there eventually, assuming he keeps the money flowing, but he’s not going to get anywhere first that SpaceX bothers going.

    Worse for him than the race aspect, is that SpaceX is accumulating real world test data at a furious pace, and will probably continue to do that, and SpaceX gets paid to collect that data.

    I don’t know, maybe better performance will win in the end, but my expectation is that before it does, the whole launch game will have been changed beyond recognition by SpaceX. And the amount of traffic to space will probably have enabled non-rocketry approaches, such as a rotovator.

  25. You made your point vis-a-vis O’Neill colonies ad nauseam.
    As was repeatedly pointed out to you, Musk, of course, knows all about them, and has chosen to settle Mars due to problems relating to actually building the colonies.
    If he is successful, O’Neill colonies will appear in due time.
    You uselessly insisting on this site changes nothing on the above.

  26. Bezos looks at Blue Origin as a hobby, and treats it as such.

    Musk looks at SpaceX like a lover he’s obsessed with pleasing.

    Which approach is likely to produce timely results?

  27. My interpretation is that the rabbit was not actually lazy, but overconfident. It is a bit different

  28. Where do you see the “stretched” version can land 10T on the moon? The only info I can find is the best it can do is 6.5T. IMO you are also just reaching or hoping for this version. The nominal version is only 3.3T.

  29. Bezos is betting on slow but steady wins the race, but the only reason the tortoise won in the parable is that the rabbit was lazy. The non-lazy rabbit wins every time.

    Or maybe Bezos is betting on ‘social engineering’, to win the race. They’re certainly doing things in a manner that’s likely to look good to NASA, which is likely culturally off-put by SpaceX’s approach to engineering, even if it does work.

  30. That fairing is pretty large, but it still looks tiny compared to the net. That net must be HUGE.
    Are they fishing out those parachutes afterwards?

  31. It si very nice to see how the parachute disconnects, when the fairing lands. Very smooth, polished.

  32. The jury’s still out. Blue is betting big on the cis-lunar market; SpaceX is still ultimately a Mars company. Blue is betting that moderately cheap launch and good propellant efficiency and simplicity will beat SpaceX’s extremely cheap launch with mediocre propellant efficiency and a lot of refueling complexity.

    A lot depends on the average payload size and the cost per launch. It takes 7 launches for SpaceX to get 100t of cargo to the lunar surface on an expendable lunar Starship. (The expendable version is much cheaper than the reusable version until the cost of Starship is lower than about $8M per launch, which is gonna take a while.) That’s 14.3t per launch. On the other hand, if the requirement is to get 10t of cargo to the surface, that still takes 4 launches to get the payload to the surface: that’s only 2.5t/launch.

    In contrast, it’ll likely take the stretched Blue Moon and New Armstrong to get 10t to the lunar surface, but they can do it in one launch: 10t/launch. So if New Armstrong is less than 4x the cost of Starship to launch, it’s competitive at the low end. But if the customer really wants 100t on the surface ASAP, then that’s 10 New Armstrong launches to Starship’s 7, and things will be pretty grim.

  33. Just think of the possibilities if Musk were to ever understand O’Neill! How long do you think it will take him?

  34. Once Starship is ironed out, SpaceX stands to make a killing in the satellite sector. They’ll be in prime position to build a moon base, which is a great dry run for a Mars base.

    Blue Origin would have to leapfrog several iterations just to catch up. I’m glad they’re there, just in case, but I can’t see them ever catching SpaceX in the next several decades. Boeing either. Musk is already ranked 5 to 7 on the list of wealthiest people. Bezos’ advantage of deep pockets is already gone.

  35. Hopefully they manage it without another R.U.D.

    Falcon 9 is reaching virtuoso heights in reusability and reliability, while Starship is still in the cradle.

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