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ūü§™ Improved SpaceX Starship Should Lift 300 Tons Expendable and 180 Tons Reusable

Hamartia Antidote

Nov 17, 2013
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United States
United States

Elon says SpaceX Starship with improved Raptor 3 engines should lift 300 tons in expendable mode which should mean mean 180 tons in reusable mode.

The International Space Station weighs about 420 tons and took about fifty space shuttle launches to build. The Starship upper stage has more volume than the International Space Station. A larger, stretched Starship upper stage could be built and launched to enable larger space stations by just leaving Starships in orbit.

An older SpaceX design was the Interplanetary Transport System. This older design was larger than the Starship Superheavy. ITS would outperform the Saturn V by a factor of 4.1 on the mass delivered to Low Earth Orbit. In a fully expendable configuration, ITS would loft a LEO payload of 550 metric tons while the reusable booster can send 300 metric tons into orbit. The improving Raptor engines are getting to 60% of the proposed ITS capability.

If SpaceX achieved a further 20% improvement in the Raptor engines could enable about 360 tons in expendable mode and 216 tons in reusable mode.

Two years ago Elon estimated a Starship would lift 250 tons to orbit in expandable mode and 150 tons in reusable mode. If Starship can be optimized with improved Raptor 3 engines for 300 tons in expendable mode then this should mean 180 tons in reusable mode.
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Starship Raptor Engine Test Stuns Elon Musk: 'Did Not Expect It To Survive'​

Musk shared in a tweet that the Raptor engine of Starship achieved a chamber pressure of 350 bar, equivalent to 269 tons of thrust. ‚ÄúCongrats to SpaceX propulsion team! Starship Super Heavy Booster has 33 Raptors, so total thrust of 8877 tons or 19.5 million pounds,‚ÄĚ Musk tweeted.

Acknowledging the high pressure as uncharted territory, Musk expressed surprise at the engine‚Äôs ability to withstand it. ‚ÄúTo be frank, we did not expect the engine to survive a full duration run at that pressure. It is uncharted territory,‚ÄĚ Musk said. ‚ÄúRaptor chamber wall might have the highest heat flux of anything ever made.‚ÄĚ

Why It Matters: SpaceX’s Starship, composed of the Super Heavy rocket and the spacecraft, aims to create a fully reusable transportation system for crew and cargo missions to Earth’s orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

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