It used to take years, sometimes decades, to build a spaceship. But if Elon Musk’s prediction is correct, his new SpaceX factory in Texas will be pumping out Starship rockets once every 72 hours.
If anybody wanted to know how bad Musk wants to get to Mars, that’s the only bit of information you need.
During an interview with Ars Technica, Musk opened up about his plans for SpaceX and the ability to mass-produce Starship rockets. The way do this is to double the company’s workforce at the Boca Chica, Texas location and have the factory operate at all hours of the day.
While chatting with his engineers and technicians, they stressed the need for more employees to assign as workers to particular stations within the factory. This would allow each person to specialize in a certain task during the process.
“I said, ‘OK no problem,’” Musk told Ars Technica. “I said, ‘You can hire people – just know your reputation is on the line. Don’t bring your brother-in-law who can’t ever get a job. Not that person, OK? You’re going to be responsible for them. Everyone’s got their relatives that they know at the family gathering, who, man, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to work with that son. Don’t bring that person. Bring the person who you’d put your reputation on the line for.”
As many of you know, SpaceX and Musk hope for Starship to be used as a commercial spacecraft that will be able to take off and land again. The plan is to have Starship ready for commercial flights by 2021. And one of the goals is to launch each Starship three times per day. The target number could be higher if not for the need to line up the ships properly for landing near the launch site. This process could take three or four orbits each time, said Musk.
Overall, Musk envisions 1,000 or so Starships departing for Mars every 26 months. The mass departures by SpaceX will help humanity establish a sustainable city on Mars within the next 50 to 100 years. That’s, of course, if everything goes to plan.
The Starship rocket is getting close to being ready to launch, with a reported period of later this spring. At first, the rocket will only haul cargo. Once a launch is successful, Musk reportedly hopes to kick the production of the rocket into high gear. First, starting at making one per week and eventually working the way to one every 72 hours. On top of the short timeline for building, Musk wants to keep costs to as low as $5 million for each rocket.
Musk knows this won’t be an easy task. “Production is at least 1,000% harder than making one of something,” Musk says. “At least 1,000% harder.”
“We’re trying to build a massive fleet to make Mars habitable, to make life multi-planetary. I think we need on the order of 1,000 ships, and each of those ships would have more payload than the Saturn V, and be reusable,” added Musk.
The prototype of the Starship rocket become available for the public’s eyes back in September. The rocket stands 164 feet tall with a diameter of 29.5 feet. Also, it is powered by 37 engines.
Musk and SpaceX have remained committed to stainless steel-use for both the 100-passenger Starship and Super Heavy the giant rocket that will launch the ship off Earth.
Stainless steel is much cheaper than the carbon-fiber material that SpaceX initially aimed to use for Starship and Super Heavy. And another reason for Musk to use stainless steel is that the metal handles heating much better than carbon composites do, he said. The crucial for both rockets to be reusable, as they will be making trips up and down through Earth’s atmosphere.
SpaceX’s vision for the Starships is frequent reusability, which will aim to slash the cost of spaceflight so that Mars colonization and other exploration feats become economically feasible for Musk. The only way to accomplish this vision is to fly with the same hardware over and over again.
While Musk’s vision is bold and could change the way we view our solar system, the world will wait and see if the mastermind can pull it off.