SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter on June 7 to answer a few questions about the company’s plans for its Boca Chica facility and Starship launch vehicle.
The impromptu Q&A was promoted by the mercurial SpaceX CEO sharing an aerial shot of the now sprawling Boca Chica facility. The company is currently utilizing the facility to construct and test Starship prototypes. During the time he spent on Twitter answering questions, Musk referred to the facility as the “Starship Production Complex” and the “Gateway to Mars.”
The facility currently has, amoung others, two large buildings referred to as High Bays. These buildings are used to construct Starship prototypes, which is accomplished by joining several large steel cylinder sections together. This process is commonly referred to as stacking.
In response to a question asking if any additional buildings would be constructed in the coming months, Musk responded “gant high bay coming soon.” In a subsequent pair of Tweets, he revealed it would be 81 meters tall and would be used for Super Heavy stacking.”
The Super Heavy booster is the first stage of the Starship launch vehicle. The booster is 8 meters wide and 70 meters tall. It is powered by 31 of the company’s next-generation methalox Raptor engines. At liftoff, the combined power of the 31 Raptor engines produces 16,000,000 pounds of thrust, which is the equivalent of 61 Boeing 747 jumbo jets or 2 Saturn V rockets.
Needless to say, the launch facility that will host Super Heavy launches will need to be formidable. In response to a question asking if Super Heavy launches would take place at “Boca, 39A [Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center] or an ocean platform”, Musk responded “pursuing all three. Hard to say right now.”
Once the Super Heavy booster and Starship spacecraft are stacked, the combined vehicle stands at 120 meters. During his Q&A session, Musk revealed the process of stacking the combined vehicle will occur on the pad and admitted that it will likely be challenging. “Even stacking on the pad will be quite an adventure,” said Musk
Following the successful launch of the first crewed Dragon spacecraft, Musk has reportedly instructed SpaceX staff to begin to focus heavily on the development of the Starship launch vehicle. This focus will be vital to ensuring the company can hit Musk’s ambitious target of a cargo launch to Mars by 2022 and a crewed mission by 2024.