SpaceX boss Elon Musk plans to build and launch BFR's Starship and Super Heavy boosters at facilities in Boca Chica, Texas and Cape Canaveral, Florida.
An indicator of SpaceX and Musk's rapidly advancing plans for the next generation ultra reusable launch system. The stainless steel-carbon composite still seems to have a number of effects (or advantages) on the design of the rocket, production, launch and operation. Given the radical, clean design changes of 3+, which has gone through the BFR program in about as many years, it is difficult to finalize the final iteration. However, Musk's statement that stainless steel BFRs can now be built in multiple locations simultaneously suggests that the construction of steel ships and steel super heavies could be radically simpler (and cheaper) than their composite predecessors.
In recent months SpaceX has been planning to manufacture the massive vehicles Starship and Super Heavy were actually in the air from a public point of view. Official January statements indicated that the first prototypes should be built in situ after it was revealed that SpaceX had prematurely terminated a lease with the Port of Los Angeles where the company had planned during 2018 Construction of a separate BFR factory by the sea.
For various reasons, all of which are unknown, SpaceX is unlikely to have any special traditional manufacturing facilities at this time. Instead, the company largely relies on the largely unprecedented practice of building the first suborbital and orbital vehicles of Starship and Super Heavy outdoors highly responsive to the apparent discomfort of practitioners, supporters and fans of the aerospace industry ,
SpaceX's decision to build and assemble large-scale Methalox rocket stages with zero absolute protection from weather conditions can be at least one of the "non-traditional" things that the habitual annoying company has ever done. On the other side of the spectrum, outdoor rocket building could be perceived as an inscrutably foolish endeavor, radically increasing the risk of dangerous manufacturing defects, the reduction of debris (FOD) and, ultimately, significant vehicle failures. From such an outside perspective, which lacks any insight into SpaceX itself, it is difficult to conclude much.
On the one hand, an extremely disciplined adherence to the principles of best practice in the aerospace industry and responsible engineering could mitigate the mitigation risks of
Given that the production of extremely heavy rockets in the orbit class was really only tried twice (Saturn V and Russia's N1), both times in purpose-built, environmentally friendly factories, this is probably SpaceX already suffers from the inherent uncertainty of the tasks ahead; Breaking new ground – especially in high-tech areas – is rarely easy or forgiving. With the above-mentioned challenges in building large and reliable rockets that regularly crash vehicles built in traditional factories, the question remains whether SpaceX can reliably build reliable, technologically advanced outdoor rockets and spacecraft until these vehicles are not literally literally has proven itself in orbit.
– Chris B – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) March 18th 2019
Aside from the difficulties, it's easy to understand why SpaceX (or maybe just Elon) is willing to try something that's never been done before. If the company could find a way to reliably build complex high-performance rockets without expensive factories, it could radically change the missile defense paradigm by reducing the often-obvious up-front costs of building giant launch vehicles. The ability to build rockets almost independently of specialized factories or assembly facilities would also make SpaceX, as Musk said, build their vehicles where they take off, further reducing the significant challenges and expense of transporting extremely large structures a few miles beyond.
Regardless of the big challenges between SpaceX and its stainless steel Starship / Super Heavy ambitions, Elon Musk seems to be as confident as ever, and openly states that Starships far surpasses progress of hawks and dragons. In other words, the apparent instability of the BFR program can ultimately be to its advantage, potentially leading to a final product that takes less time and ultimately comes closer to its original design intent. At the risk of putting the wrong words in Musk's mouth, he seems to think SpaceX might be able to achieve a combination of Starship and Super Heavy much closer to Falcon 9 Block 5 than Falcon 9 V1 .0 lies, and this is possible earlier than most others believe
Only time will tell. In the meantime, there will already be a firework display that begins this week with the first static fire test – and potential jumps – from SpaceX's massive Starship Hopper. Stay tuned for updates!
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