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Shipping Freight by Rocket

July 12, 2022 by Jailin Harris-Putulin
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SpaceX’s Starship

Continuously Updated Research on the Starship Journey

SpaceX’s most recent update on the Starship program is, as Elon Musk stated, “not good”.

  • On July 13th, 2022, just about 2 days after the explosion, SpaceX has removed the Starship’s booster from the launch pad and sent it for repairs and inspections. As of July 17th, 2022 one of the 13 center engines on booster 7 has been removed.
  • On July 11th, 2022, SpaceX attempted to perform a test launch of the Starship that ended with an explosion at the base of one of the booster rockets. The explosion, which surrounded the base of the rocket in a ball of flames and heavy smoke was specific to the engine spin start test. In the future, Musk plans to NOT run this test on all 33 engines at once, hoping to prevent another explosion.

SpaceX is researching to determine damage to the booster, launch pad, and mechanical arms at the launch site, following the incident on Monday. This event will likely set back Musk’s plans for future launches.

Shipping Freight By Rocket

For those unfamiliar, Starship is the next generation of global logistics. Elon Musk and SpaceX are developing the SpaceX Starship System to create a new standard for “same-day delivery”. It’s been created to transport large amounts of cargo or even many people, in a gigantic and fully reusable rocket system that could cost less and fly more often. It will reduce cross-planet transit time to as little as under an hour. For example, Musk estimates that delivery from New York to Shanghai can be performed in 30 minutes.

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The SpaceX Starship System Rocket

A building plan for the final model includes 3 rear fins, 2 front fins, and a 33 Raptor engine. The SpaceX Starship System consists of two parts, the “Starship” upper cabin area, and the “Super Heavy” booster stage. Both sections of the spacecraft are mostly stainless steel. Musk found this to be the best option due to the low price, lightweight, and higher melting point advantages compared to other materials such as carbon fiber. A starship launch could cost just $2 million a turn, thanks to efficiency savings that come from reusing a rocket. Shipping freight by rocket can accelerate the shipping industry immensely.

The SpaceX Starship System is the rocket that Musk plans to use for this expansion of delivery. The development cost estimate is $5 billion. There will be a likely increase as time goes on and most funds come from by SpaceX and its partners. Many production sites were considered including places such as  California, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Boca Chica, Texas is the current main construction site for the rocket.

The “Starship”

Starship is a fully reusable spacecraft and the second stage of the Starship system. It offers a payload section to the rocket and is capable of carrying passengers and cargo. It measures about 170 feet tall, 30-foot diameter, and mass of 2,650,000 lbs. This section of the aircraft has a payload volume of about 1,000 m^3. By using refueling tactics such as using a tanker spacecraft, Starship will be able to transport larger loads.

The “Super Heavy”

The Super Heavy is the second section of the spacecraft. It measures 230 feet tall, 30-foot diameter, a mass of 7,500,000 lbs. The engineer cluster of 33 Raptor engines produces 72MN of full power. The full Super Heavy section is planned to be caught by mechanical arms so that it can be quickly repositioned for the next launch. It has a gross liftoff mass of over 3 million kg and uses sub-cooled liquid methane and liquid oxygen (CH4/LOX) propellants.

Starship Program Shipping Freight

Freight shipping occurs between places all over the world. Military, business and international freight are all categories that could benefit from the Starship System. Using a reusable rocket such as the Starship for freight shipping increases the amount of flights performed by each rocket, lowering the price to ship.

Military Freight:

The US Airforce has released budget plans including the Starship System in their transportation systems. $48 million has been requested by the US military for funding of the rocket. If successful, transportation of military cargo weighing up to 150 tons can be done at lightning speed. The Rocket Cargo program will be part of SpaceX’s Vanguard Program which identifies research and technology that could be of interest to the military.

US Army General Stephen Lyons, head of Transportation Command, announced partnerships with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and space design consultants Exploration Architecture Corporation to explore the statistics and needed resources to make this plan happen. The Air Force does not intend to be a part of the rocket’s development but instead fund the science and technology needed to turn a rocket such as the Starship into a military craft for their use.

One concept involves sending a reusable rocket-boosted spaceship to high altitudes within the atmosphere. The ship would then land at the sites where the freight is unloaded before returning to the initial departure point. Another concept idea is the “Super Heavy” section of the rocket being held by mechanical arms to prepare for another launch. There are plans for test flights by the end of 2022.

LTL Freight Shipping:

LTL freight is just one use for the Starship rocket. Large businesses and large shipments can ship using the program. Need a shipment delivered quicker than generic time? Musk is estimating that this rocket can ship around the earth in less than an hour.

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