Elon Musk’s Starship Update – February 2022

On Thursday, February 10, 2022 – 20:00 CST, Space Exploration Technology’s (SpaceX) Chief Engineer Elon Musk gave a presentation about the Starship/Super Heavy rocket. The backdrop was the recently stacked launch vehicle, which was completed by the chopstick stacking and catching arms for the first time. To keep track of the first orbital launch, slated for this year, check out our live updates article with information on what is going on in Starbase.

Elon Musk opened the update by welcoming locals, employees, and the press to the Gateway to Mars – Starbase, Texas. He then thanked the surrounding area, including Cameron County, South Padre Island, Brownsville, and Boca Chica Village for their support.

Watch a replay of the update here: Starship Update

Why Make Life Multiplanetary?

One of SpaceX’s biggest goals with Starship is to make a human colony on Mars self sustaining. This is, without a doubt, something of the distant future. However, the work being done today will eventually make that dream a reality. Musk commented on the future, “Making life multiplanetary is important for the future of life itself”. He insisted that humans must find a way off this planet and travel amongst the starts as Earth will not last forever.

“Life can’t just be about solving problems. it has to be about things that inspire you… That move your heart. That when you wake up in the morning, you’re excited about the future.” These words have led Elon Musk to drive SpaceX in the right direction to achieve its ambitious goals. One of the most common phrases encompasses the need for a “fully and rapidly reusable launch system” in order to make life multiplanetary.

Problems On Earth And The Space Budget

Musk went on to discuss the United States’ Government spending on spaceflight. In 2020, only 0.36% of the U.S Budget was committed to space. However, this is not to complain that 0.36% is not enough. “I believe that more than 99% of our resources should be oriented to solving problems on Earth,” says Musk, “But maybe even half a percent?” On the large scale, 0.36% provides for the development of robotic missions to Mars and the upcoming Space Launch System. If the US Government would increase the budget by a few tenths of a percent, that would allow more advances from government operated space organizations.

Starship Tonnage To Orbit

A graphic the world has yet to see included the overall tonnage of payload that has the potential to be delivered to orbit. This data is based on increasingly frequent Starship flights. As of current, the world has launched a total of about 15,000 tonnes to orbit across all space agencies ever. For Starship, the tonnes to orbit for one year hosting three flights a week, a total of about 156 flights in the year, could have the potential to achieve 15,500 tonnes to orbit per Starship.

spacex, elon musk starship update, mass to orbit graph for Starship
A graph showing the tonnage to orbit of Starship (Credit: SpaceX)

If Starship were to launch three times a day for an entire year, a total of 109,500 tonnes would be launched to orbit for that year per Starship. If SpaceX is able to achieve over one million tonnes to orbit, that would equate to about 100,000 tonnes to the surface of Mars, according to Musk. He also believes that at least one million tonnes would be required on Mars to have a self sustaining habitat or city on the surface of Mars.

Starship And Super Heavy Reusability And Production

Musk commented on the reusability of both Starship and Super Heavy. Starting with the return to Earth, the Booster was stated to be able to return in six minutes, be refilled in 30, and be ready to launch again about an hour after its first launch. As for the Ship, it must make at least one orbit, most likely two or three, before returning to Earth. This would result in a reuse time between six and eight hours. All of this would assume that no human maintenance would be required between flights.

Touching on production of each as well, Musk stated that by the end of 2022, SpaceX aims to be producing one booster and one Ship per month.

Details And Numbers For Starship And Super Heavy

While the figures have remained fairly consistent, updated tables with new full stack images provided confirmation of a maximum 150 tonnes payload capacity. Super Heavy presented a table for itself with the most up to date numbers. Musk also emphasized that Super Heavy was originally 70 meters tall. An unnecessary and extra half of a ring section was then removed and the booster topped off at 69 meters.

spacex, elon musk starship update, February 2022, Starship specifications
Starship specifications (Credit: SpaceX)
spacex, elon musk starship update, february 2022, Super Heavy specifications
Super Heavy specifications (Credit: SpaceX)

Updates On The Raptor Engine

Perhaps the most critical system on a rocket would be its engines. Engines deliver the power to the launch vehicle, therefore having a reliable yet efficient engine is the key to rapid reusability. SpaceX has recently been using the Raptor V1 engine for mounting on Booster 4 and to perform engine tests on both Booster 3 and Ship 20. However, since the Raptor engine is still early in its development, there are still improvements being made.

SpaceX Raptor V1 vs Raptor V2, Elon Musk Starship update, February 2022, 185t of thrust vs 230t of thrust
Raptor 1 and 2 comparison (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX placed a side by side comparison of Raptor V1 and the advanced Raptor V2 engine at the update location. On the outside, Raptor V2 demonstrated a slimmer, more compact, and smaller design than Raptor V1. However, Musk provided details about the inside and some of the problems they are having in development.

The biggest issue for Raptor V2 is the melting of the combustion chamber, which has a goal of operating at 330 bar. Increased pressure will also increase the temperature inside the chamber. “That thing really wants to melt,” says Elon Musk. SpaceX has been able to increase the rate of production of their Raptor V2 engine and is expected to have five or six more Raptors produced next week, eventually producing one per day as early as next month.

Some of the internal changes to Raptor V2 include the deleting or simplification of many unneeded components and the consolidation of plumbing. Some critical components were made more robust, including the inducers of the turbopumps. The chamber nozzle, electronics and other items have been given a complete redesign. SpaceX also converted flanges, a method of connecting pipes that allows for easy maintenance, to welds, which helped reduce the overall size of the plumbing. Furthermore, Elon Musk noted that the cost per Raptor V2 has gone down to only half of what the cost of one Raptor V1 previously was.

Flying With Starship

Starship will go orbital sometime this year, but when will it achieve refilling in orbit and point to point transportation? Musk made a correction to the previously used term “orbital refueling” and made it “orbital refilling”. There is three and a half times more liquid oxygen being transferred than fuel, therefore refueling is not entirely true. At the conclusion of this topic, Elon Musk stated that he aims to test the orbital refilling concept by the end of next year (2023) and he would be surprised if it would take longer than two years.

When asked about point to point transportation, something that was a big selling factor originally, Musk mentioned that it might be cheaper to send payload on Starship instead of a conventional airliner. Musk stated, “There are some scenarios where [Starship] may be the lowest cost means of transporting cargo long distances such as 1/4, 1/3 the way around the world”. In addition, the costs of delivering 100 tonnes to orbit will cost a few million dollars after a few years of development.

Stage 0: Launch And Catch Tower

The most critical element to successfully launching and landing a fully stacked Starship/Super Heavy is the tower and Orbital Tank Farm. This is often referred to as Stage 0. During the update, Elon Musk stated that it took only 13 months to design, develope, and construct Stage 0. “I really want to emphasize that the whole launch system is equally as complex and difficult as either the booster or the ship,” says Musk. The system is one like no other. Something that is truly unique and has never been seen or done before.

Starbase, Elon Musk, Starship Update, February 2022, launch facility, launch tower, catching tower
A render indicating a second Orbital Tank Farm and tower to be built to the south of the current one (Credit: SpaceX)

Future of Starbase

SpaceX has recently started to build up a new Starship/Super Heavy launch facility at Launch Complex 39A. This pad is located at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA. Because this launch location allows for greater flexibility, LC-39A and other pads will eventually host regular Starship launches. However, Starbase is critical to the development of Starship. At Starbase, SpaceX will continue to test Starships and new variants before sending them over to launch from the Space Coast. This will allow failures without risking the launch pads used for regular human and satellite launches, potentially disrupting the launch manifest from the Cape. Both locations will have a production and a launch facility for more flexibility.

12 comments
  1. Wow this article really helped me a lot to get a cleared picture and understanding of the presentation. Thanks

    1. He seriously needs to totally abandon Boca Chica and send everything to Florida, and let the place in Texas go feral again. The place in Texas gives them every opportunity to F with him and stop progress.

      There are multiple people and groups who want to see them fail and it is easy to cause problems for them, so you get what we see happening here. His enemies start at the very top of government.

      Biden cannot stand Musk, for starters because he’s building cars without letting the UAW run Tesla and destroy it. Plus they hate him with a passion because he is not woke. It’s true and everybody knows it’s true.

      If you doubt that they really hate him and want him to fail just remember this. They held a meeting-event for America’s electric car manufacturers and they did not invite Tesla. And then Biden stood there and said that GM is the world leader in electric automobiles (or something similar). Just let that sink in for a minute.

      And then this whole legacy aerospace who fleeces us for billions of dollars per year, knows full well that if starship works as advertised, which it probably will or at least close, is going to make all of their stuff obsolete. They need Starship to fail.

      It’s just going to be a lot harder to stop SpaceX if they are working on the space coast. They will still try but there will be less success at it.

  2. I have a question. Elon said, “If SpaceX is able to achieve over one million tonnes to orbit, that would equate to about 100,000 tonnes to the surface of Mars”.

    We know Starship can be refilled at Earth orbit. This allows it to avoid the tyranny of the Rocket Equation and the payload to Mars shouldn’t be affected. That means one Starship should be able to transport entire 100-150 ton cargo to Mars. So how the tonnage to Mars gets 1/10 of that to LEO? Does 1 million ton include the fuel/oxidizer as well and 100,000 ton include only the cargo?

    1. I suspect that the ‘one million tonnes to orbit, would equate about 100,000 tonnes on the surface of Mars’ implies that 90% of the payload to earth orbit would be methane and oxygen used to refill the Mars-bound Starships.

  3. I seriously doubt 3 Starship flights a day from either Cape or Boca Chica. This would require permanent range clear of boats and planes. No mention of launches from offshore rigs. What is up with Deimos and Phobos?

    1. Musk said that Deimos and Fobos are of “low priority” now.
      When launchpad becomes wery busy and noisy, Musk plans move it 20-30 miles offshore, to not disturb local residents

  4. Hi, great summation of the recent presentation. I noticed a possible typo in Elon”s quote about multiplanetary. You put “making like multiplanetary” instead of “making life multiplanetary”. Still a great article.

  5. Hello my name is Franco, and I wanted to tell you that I am doing a monograph for a university subject on the Raptor engine. And I have a couple of questions I want to ask you, if it is annoying we can talk privately through some platform? Thanks a lot

  6. Hello my name is Franco, and I wanted to tell you that I am doing a monograph for a university subject on the Raptor engine. And I have a couple of questions I want to ask you, if it is annoying we can talk privately through some platform? Thanks a lot

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