News, Technology

SpaceX Starship’s Wet Dress Rehearsal

Kenton Reynolds

Kenton Reynolds, Writer

Following the success of the Starship’s wet dress rehearsal, SpaceX are edging ever closer to a trip to Mars.

SpaceX’s plans for an interplanetary transport were first announced in 2016 after 4 years of previous work. The Starship will launch from Earth and travel all the way to Mars with an initial cargo of 100 people and a view to taking 200 or more in the future. The trip is expected to take 80 to 150 days with CEO Elon Musk hoping to reduce that to 30 days in the longer term.

Musk is making an effort to make the trip as affordable as possible and remove some of the more extreme elitism that space travel presents. Primarily, this is achieved with the addition of more passengers to share the cost. Creating a reusable rocket is also key to lower costs and SpaceX plans for the Starship to remain in orbit when it arrives at a planet it will remain in orbit to be refueled in preparation for the return trip.

The ship will launch from the Kennedy Space Centre using its 12m wide and 122m tall booster. Upon reaching orbit, the booster will detach and take about 20 minutes to return to Earth. Resources from within the ship will be used to set up on Mars, and Musk expects 20 to 50 trips will be needed to form a long term colony – taking 40 to 100 years.

SpaceX carried out their wet dress rehearsal a few weeks ago on 23rd January. This is one of the final milestones in the spacecraft reaching actual space travel. The tanks are fully loaded with fuel – hence the ‘wet’ in the name – and briefly tested to check for design or procedural flaws with the engines. Though few details were published at the time, the test appears to have been successful. Next, there will be a static-fire test of all 33 of the Starship’s Raptor engines which is then followed by the first orbital launch attempt. All of this depends on a license to launch being provided by the Federal Aviation Administration which can take a while.

However, if the license is provided in time we could see the final flight test taking place as early as March. Once the tests have been passed, the flight to Mars should be pretty soon after. Musk has said it will be as accessible as possible – except to children due to the risks – and just a few days of training will be required. It might be time to start saving up, your holidays could be on Mars next year.

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