Elon Musk: SpaceX’s New Starship Vehicle Could Launch Satellites in a Year
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, announced that the company’s new Starship vehicle could be ready to start launching satellites within a year. Speaking virtually at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Baku, Azerbaijan, Musk expressed confidence that the vehicle would be capable of deploying SpaceX’s advanced Starlink satellites, even before demonstrating the ability to safely recover both stages of the vehicle.
Musk stated, “There’s a good chance we start deploying Starlink V3 satellites next year, in roughly a year from now.” He revealed that SpaceX had not previously disclosed a version 3 of the Starlink satellites and had planned to launch full-sized V2 satellites on Starship instead. However, the company is now considering launching the V3 satellites before solving the challenges associated with ship reusability.
Although SpaceX has not yet mastered the safe reentry and landing of the Starship, Musk believes that the satellite launches can commence using the Falcon 9, as the upper stage is expendable. He explained, “It’s actually fine to start launching satellites even before we solve for ship reusability.”
Regarding the progress of the Starship, Musk did not provide significant updates; however, he mentioned that SpaceX had adopted a passive stage separation system between the booster and ship, eliminating the need for certain parts. The company also intends to perform “hot staging,” wherein the ship ignites its engines before separating from the booster. Musk expressed cautious optimism about the upcoming launch and stated that if the engines light up and the ship successfully separates from the booster, there is a “decent chance” of reaching orbit.
As with the previous test flight in April, the upcoming flight will not complete a single orbit and will splash down near Hawaii. SpaceX is taking a gradual approach to reusing the vehicle, and neither the booster nor the ship will be recovered on the upcoming flight. Musk mentioned that the booster could be recovered within the next year by catching it with arms extending from the launch tower, using a contraption called “Mechazilla.” However, recovering the ship will take longer, as SpaceX wants to ensure it lands intact in a specific location in the Pacific before attempting to catch it at the launch site. Musk hopes that they might be able to catch the ship by the end of next year.
While Musk has set ambitious timelines in the past, he remains optimistic about the progress of the Starship. During the presentation, he stated that the first Starship mission to Mars could happen in three to four years. At the IAC in 2017, he set an “aspirational” goal of initial cargo missions to Mars in 2022.
SpaceX’s Starship holds the potential to revolutionize space travel and satellite deployments, with its reusable design and large payload capacity. As the company continues to make strides in its development, the space industry eagerly awaits the next successes and milestones achieved by SpaceX.