SpaceX just built a shiny 164-foot-tall rocket prototype in South Texas that looks like it came from Mars

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SpaceX just built a shiny 164-foot-tall rocket prototype in South Texas that looks like it came from Mars

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spacex starship mark mk 1 mk1 mars spaceship prototype construction mating boca chica texas spadre EFfWVXRXUAMZtiB

Rachel Gore/SPadre.com; Twitter

SpaceX uses a crane to mate the upper and lower sections of Starship Mk 1 for the first time on September 27, 2019.

  • SpaceX is developing a stainless-steel Mars rocket system at its private launch site in South Texas.
  • On Friday, SpaceX mated the lower and upper sections of Starship Mk 1 - a 164-foot-tall prototype - for the first time. The vehicle is a follow-up to a shorter and stubbier prototype called Starhopper.
  • Photos and videos show the new rocket ship's final assembly. "Starship will allow us to inhabit other worlds," company founder Elon Musk tweeted after the vehicle was mated.
  • Musk is due to provide an update on the company's Starship program on Saturday around 8 p.m. ET from Boca Chica, Texas.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. 

A day before Elon Musk is due to present the latest progress on Starship - an enormous and fully reusable Mars launch system - the tech mogul's rocket company, SpaceX, has polished off a gleaming prototype.

SpaceX built the new shiny, stainless-steel test vehicle, called Starship Mk 1, at its launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, amid a sleepy hamlet of about two dozen residents.

Workers for the company first attached two large wings to the lower half of Starship Mk 1 in the middle of the week. They then worked through the night on Friday to add canards (or wings) to the upper section.

Over the course of an hour on Friday afternoon, they lifted the upper section with a huge construction crane, moved it over the lower section, and carefully dropped it into place. YouTube user LabPadre, who lives in South Texas, recorded the process and shared a sped-up video:

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Rachel and Gene Gore, who run the website SPadre.com (a reference to nearby South Padre Island), also live in the area and were on-scene to record the mating of Starship Mk 1 from a different angle.

One of their photos shows workers beginning to fix the two sections into place on the end of telescoping booms:

spacex starship mark mk 1 mk1 mars spaceship prototype construction mating boca chica texas spadre EFfTBcwXUAIbmt7

Rachel Gore/SPadre.com

SpaceX's Starship Mk 1 prototype was mated for the first time on September 27, 2019.

Musk said the Starship Mk 1 prototype is about 164 feet tall and weighs about 200 tons without any fuel, or about as heavy as a blue whale.

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Once filled with liquid methane and oxygen at the launch pad, though, it may weigh seven times that amount. A full-scale and operational Starship system may stand 39 to 40 stories tall once stacked atop a gigantic rocket booster dubbed Super Heavy.

"Starship will allow us to inhabit other worlds," Musk tweeted on Friday after sharing the photo below, later adding: "To make life as we know it multiplanetary."

spacex starship mark 1 mk1 steel mars rocket prototype construction assembly mating boca chica texas elon musk twitter EFfmFEEU8AA1SmA

Elon Musk/SpaceX; Twitter

Construction cranes help mate the upper and lower sections of SpaceX's Starship Mk 1 prototype for the first time on September 27, 2019.

Musk will present new updates about SpaceX's Starship system on Saturday

Starship Mk 1 is not built to fly to Mars. Rather, it's an early test vehicle to try out new technologies that will lead to a full-scale Mars ship.

Its construction follows an earlier 60-foot-tall prototype, called Starhopper, that flew to 500 feet and landed on a nearby concrete pad in August.

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The latest prototype does have three car-size Raptor rocket engines attached its base, though, which Musk hopes will propel the craft to more than 12 miles high before the end of this year. A follow-on launch may send the crude steel-paneled rocket ship around Earth.

Musk is due to present the latest news about the rocket company's plans for Starship on Saturday around 8 p.m. ET from its southernmost launch site.

SpaceX has yet to confirm there will be a livestream, but the company typically broadcasts from its YouTube channel just prior to each of Musk's major announcements.

Read more: Elon Musk is about to unveil SpaceX's new Mars spaceship prototype in Texas

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