Technology 3 min read

SpaceX's Starship to Make its First Flight by 2020

L Galbraith /

L Galbraith /

In 1984, science fiction master writer Isaac Asimov gave his vision of the world in 2019.

While his predictions are a bit off in the space section of his prophecy, Asimov got it right on how humanity’s space dream would unfold.

We’re in 2019 already and we’re not back on the moon in force yet, and there’s certainly a long way to go before setting up space solar stations and mining factories.

But we will definitely be using shuttle rockets as vehicles, at least at first, to lay out the foundations of a permanent space home for humanity.

Read More: Isaac Asimov’s Predictions for 2019, 35 Years Later

If we’re not as far into space as Asimov liked, it’s the year that saw the birth of the spaceship that might be the first to reach Mars.

SpaceX’s Starship in Orbit by 2020

In the race toward space, it’s all about affordability and sustainability.

Elon Musk, with his spacefaring spirit, thinks trips to Mars could be as affordable as buying a house.

As a leading candidate expected to reach Mars first, SpaceX has tweaked both its technology and strategy to make its Mars plan as economically viable as possible.

Currently, SpaceX’s lineup of vehicles is composed of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets and the Dragon capsule.

While these systems now perform all SpaceX’s low-orbit launches, they can’t serve its long-term goals for spaceflight sustainability.

The company has thought of a single and reusable system that would eventually replace its current space hardware.

For this, Musk presented a two-stage vehicle, composed of a Starship and Super Heavy Rocket as the booster. This new space transportation system’s entry into service could be just around the corner.

The Starship spacecraft is designed for all kinds of launches, from reaching Earth’s orbit to the Moon and even Mars.

As SpaceX has been redirecting efforts and resources from Falcon Rockets and the Dragon Capsule, its Starship project has gained steam.

Last December, Elon Musk shared images on Twitter showing the construction of the Starship prototype in Boca Chica, South Texas.

Then on January 10, Musk posted a photo of the Starship test version, making sure to note it’s not a rendering but an actual image.

Starship Falls to Rise Again

In an interview, Musk explained why they opted for stainless steel instead of carbon fiber for the Starship.

Cutting costs is the major motive for the switch. According to Musk, stainless steel costs just $3 per kilogram compared to around $200 for carbon fiber.

Stainless steel could make for smooth space trips and withstand violent solar storms.

However, it can’t ensure the safety of the shiny interplanetary vehicle while still on the ground.

Rocket launches usually avoid blustery days, and for a good reason. Strong winds could topple the rocket while it’s being readied on the launch pad.

This is what happened to the prototype of SpaceX’s Starship at its launch site in South Texas.

Due to 50 mile per hour gusts of wind, the spacecraft fell over on its flank and sustained serious damage.

According to Musk, it will take a few weeks to repair the Starship prototype. Despite this minor setback, the SpaceX flagship looks like it could be a major contender for the next step in our species’ interplanetary endeavors.

Read More: What the New SpaceX Defense Contract Means for the Starlink Project

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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