Elon Musk reveals SpaceX's stainless steel Starship rocket

Humza

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

Earlier this month, SpaceX confirmed plans to begin testing its orbital-class 'Starship' rocket whose first prototype was completed over the weekend. A 200-ton, 165 ft-tall stainless steel rocket that will use three of SpaceX's next-gen Raptor engines to test out its flight capabilities through a series of propulsive landing tests.

"This thing is going to take off, fly to 65,000 feet — about 20 kilometers — and come back and land in about one to two months," said Musk as he stood beside 'Starship' and the Falcon 1 rocket, the latter of which became the first private liquid-fueled rocket to reach orbit on September 28, 2008.

Musk is also planning to launch Starship into orbit in the next six months. "This is going to sound totally nuts, but I think we want to try to reach orbit in less than six months," he said, adding that the milestone depended on the continual exponential rate in the improvement of design and manufacturing.

He also commented on the use of stainless steel as being "by far the best design decision" of the company. Acknowledging that the material was heavier than carbon composite or aluminum-based alternatives, he cited steel's extreme resistance to temperature changes as a big plus that would ultimately result in a modest heat shield of glass-like thermal tiles for the Starship rocket.

Another plus for SpaceX is the cost of using steel. Since making the rockets will be out of the company's own pocket, Musk said that they'll be able to build many shiny Starships thanks to the cheaper price of steel that sells for $2,500/ton as opposed to spending $130,000/ton on buying carbon fiber.

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Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
Have you noticed that more and more his rockets look like something out of the old Buck Rogers? And stainless steel? Seriously? It must be rolled paper thin because the weight alone would be very prohibitive for any kind of launch vehicle. I'm almost wondering if the one they use will be different and this one is just for the big media event. If you ever go down to Huntsville, AL and see the various launch vehicles it has to make you wonder .....
 
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We need to either colonize the moon or build a "spacedock".

Launch the supplies and building materials piece by piece into orbit. Assemble your spaceships in orbit or the moon so you have less gravity to fight when you want to do a mission.
 
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wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
We need to either colonize the moon or build a "spacedock".

Launch the supplies and building materials piece by piece into orbit. Assemble your spaceships in orbit or the moon so you have less gravity to fight when you want to do a mission.
What? No confidence in Musk? :laughing: Musk does everything better and always does things right the first time. :laughing: He's an expert! :laughing: ;)
 

wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
Have you noticed that more and more his rockets look like something out of the old Buck Rogers? And stainless steel? Seriously? It must be rolled paper thin because the weight alone would be very prohibitive for any kind of launch vehicle. I'm almost wondering if the one they use will be different and this one is just for the big media event. If you ever go down to Huntsville, AL and see the various launch vehicles it has to make you wonder .....
Well, to be fair, their first choice of material was carbon fiber. Until they probably figured out that the epoxy/urethane resin they need to make that work will likely not stand up to the radiation in space since both will be degraded by UV. Just goes to show the level of expertise in the enterprise. Musk was probably screaming to use carbon fiber until someone got up the guts to tell him it would likely fall apart in space due to the radiation exposure. :laughing:

Musk, the expert! :facepalm:
 
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What? No confidence in Musk? :laughing: Musk does everything better and always does things right the first time. :laughing: He's an expert! :laughing: ;)
Elon Musk is nothing more than Corporate Welfare and Government subsidies.

If this country was still Great like it was during the space race, NASA would be building TESLA.
 

mbrowne5061

TS Evangelist
"He also commented on the use of stainless steel as being "by far the best design decision" of the company. Acknowledging that the material was heavier than carbon composite or aluminum-based alternatives, he cited steel's extreme resistance to temperature changes as a big plus that would ultimately result in a modest heat shield of glass-like thermal tiles for the Starship rocket."

At least he stopped pretending that he is going to cool the thing using its own fuel. You can use stainless steel, but you still need some kind of heat shield (and I have yet to be convinced that the one-time cost savings on manufacturing offsets the recurring additional fuel expenditures - manufacturing could be a crapshoot for mechanical maintenance).
 

wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
"He also commented on the use of stainless steel as being "by far the best design decision" of the company. Acknowledging that the material was heavier than carbon composite or aluminum-based alternatives, he cited steel's extreme resistance to temperature changes as a big plus that would ultimately result in a modest heat shield of glass-like thermal tiles for the Starship rocket."

At least he stopped pretending that he is going to cool the thing using its own fuel. You can use stainless steel, but you still need some kind of heat shield (and I have yet to be convinced that the one-time cost savings on manufacturing offsets the recurring additional fuel expenditures - manufacturing could be a crapshoot for mechanical maintenance).
For Musk, life is a series of pretend moments until reality wakes him up! :laughing:
 

Ean Mogg

TS Booster
Has a nice 1950's sci-fi look to it!
Just goes to think this was in Buck Rogers cartoon in the twenties which was based in the twenty fourth century so who's the one that can see the future the writer, cartoonist or the one who built it which I would have thought ridiculous in the seventies when I grew up ..
 

neeyik

TS Guru
Staff member
Well, to be fair, their first choice of material was carbon fiber. Until they probably figured out that the epoxy/urethane resin they need to make that work will likely not stand up to the radiation in space since both will be degraded by UV. Just goes to show the level of expertise in the enterprise. Musk was probably screaming to use carbon fiber until someone got up the guts to tell him it would likely fall apart in space due to the radiation exposure. :laughing:

Musk, the expert! :facepalm:
There is a reasonable amount of research ongoing to try and resolve the problems of using carbon composites for long-term space use:

https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/101201/factsheet/en
https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1140
https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1143/JJAP.27.2139

I'd be less worried about the effects of radiation, and a lot more concerned on how a large carbon composite chamber deals with impacts at several thousand miles per hour :(

UncleAl said:
Have you noticed that more and more his rockets look like something out of the old Buck Rogers? And stainless steel? Seriously? It must be rolled paper thin because the weight alone would be very prohibitive for any kind of launch vehicle.
Hence the monstrous launcher needed to get the thing going!
 
I like what SpaceX is trying to do but every time I see that thing, it just looks like a giant troll. Like he's pulling our leg and we haven't figured it out yet. I fully expect that on launch day, it'll power up real impressively, shake a bit, and then pop a giant bouquet of flowers out the top.
 
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VitalyT

Russ-Puss
I don't know why this immediately reminds me of movie Vanilla Sky, where the protagonist's nickname was Citizen Dildo.
 

SpacedOut

TS Rookie
Not much of a fanboy of Elon, but have to admit SpaceX has delivered so far. Oddly, launching the roadster on the first heavy, while showboating, was one of the inspiring moments of this so-far distressing century. Now this purposefully sci-fi design - guess we'll see. I suspect he'd be awful to work for, but he does seem to have some engineering heavy talent there at Spacex and appreciate the fact that they move boldly forward. Seeing that thing fly would be interesting to say the least.
 

wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
There is a reasonable amount of research ongoing to try and resolve the problems of using carbon composites for long-term space use:

https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/101201/factsheet/en
https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1140
https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1143/JJAP.27.2139

I'd be less worried about the effects of radiation, and a lot more concerned on how a large carbon composite chamber deals with impacts at several thousand miles per hour :(
The last two links indicate that composite materials, I.e., carbon fiber reinforced plastics, do degrade in space.

I have heard that shells, I.e., thin layers of carbon fiber stiffened with epoxy or some other plastic reinforcement, tend to shatter easily. At least on Earth with low velocities, making sandwich structures from a low-density core surrounded by carbon fiber cloth, should be able to mitigate that shattering - IMO.

However in space, that's another story. Even the stainless steel in this current design, I suspect, would not fare well from a micrometeorite impact. At least the stainless steel would potentially only leave a hole and not shatter. Toughening the CF for shatter resistance may very well be a difficult task. If it were me, I would start by testing sandwich structures.
Not much of a fanboy of Elon, but have to admit SpaceX has delivered so far. Oddly, launching the roadster on the first heavy, while showboating, was one of the inspiring moments of this so-far distressing century. Now this purposefully sci-fi design - guess we'll see. I suspect he'd be awful to work for, but he does seem to have some engineering heavy talent there at Spacex and appreciate the fact that they move boldly forward. Seeing that thing fly would be interesting to say the least.
Yes, he does have his engineers. I wonder just how much he has to be in control, though. That aspect may very well be what makes him difficult to work for.
 
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captaincranky

TechSpot Addict
I have heard that shells, I.e., thin layers of carbon fiber stiffened with epoxy or some other plastic reinforcement, tend to shatter easily. At least on Earth with low velocities, making sandwich structures from a low-density core surrounded by carbon fiber cloth, should be able to mitigate that shattering - IMO.

However in space, that's another story. Even the stainless steel in this current design, I suspect, would not fare well from a micrometeorite impact. At least the stainless steel would potentially only leave a hole and not shatter. Toughening the CF for shatter resistance may very well be a difficult task. If it were me, I would start by testing sandwich structures.

Yes, he does have his engineers. I wonder just how much he has to be in control, though. That aspect may very well be what makes him difficult to work for.
The SR-71 had to use titanium skins to deal with strength and heat. In fact, the aircraft was 6 inches longer when at cruise speed and altitude. (85,000+ ft Mach 3.2)

What's really interesting is that Russia is the world's leading supplier of titanium, and the CIA had to purchase the metal for the project through a straw buyer.

So if Musk wants to di*k around with this, "flying turd with fins" in the atmosphere, he might have to get ready for a few surprises.

And then there are the infamous ceramic heat shield tiles on the space shuttle.
 
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