Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, a US space exploration technology company, is committed to building a city called “Starbase”, which will become its space port to the moon, Mars and other depths of space. If the plan goes well, this ambitious spaceport may become the starting point for launching spacecraft to the moon and Mars many times a year.
Musk makes no secret of his intention to build a permanent base on Mars, but his latest adventure is to build his own city on earth. Near the SpaceX launch site in boccachica, southern Texas, Musk’s idea was to call the city an interstellar base. It will accommodate all the personnel working at the launch site, those who intend to travel in space on the company’s spacecraft, and become a tourist destination for those who want to witness the spectacular scene of rocket launch.
As early as March this year, he announced that he would donate $30 million to Brownsville, Texas to start the project. Of this, $20 million will be used for County schools and another $10 million will be used to revitalize the downtown Brownsville area. Musk now encourages people to move to Texas. He said through Twitter that the interstellar base will welcome thousands of residents in just a few years. He said he was planning to recruit a large number of new engineers, technicians and other professionals.
Musk hopes that eventually the interstellar base will become the starting point for people to go to Mars. Each powerful interstellar spacecraft can transport about 100 people to the red planet at a time. But when they prepare for flight, only towns or cities can provide the living space and infrastructure they need. Therefore, the transformation of Boca Chica village into an interstellar base may be crucial to Musk’s vision of space exploration.
Musk began to build his own city from the end of February to early March 2021, when he officially contacted Cameron county government. Musk said that it would abide by all relevant regulations and any application would be finally judged in accordance with applicable laws. After an extensive environmental assessment conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), SpaceX announced in 2014 that it intended to build a launch facility in boccachica village on the Gulf coast of the United States.
Glenn Hamer, CEO of the Texas business association, said, “the center of the free market economy is in Texas. Musk is talking about launching rockets to Mars. There is not much resistance here. People really think the sky is infinite.”
In the past, SpaceX’s Falcon rocket launch site was leased from NASA and the U.S. government, while Boca Chica base was completely owned by the company. Bokaqika is home to Musk’s boldest space vehicle. The system consists of a starship of the same name and a giant rocket called super heavy, which will send the spacecraft into space. It is different from any previous attempt. Once completed, it will be the most powerful rocket system ever launched.
Josh Barker, an official of the National Space Center in Leicester, said: “this is really an ambitious project. It has something to do with how SpaceX achieved today. I don’t think they are afraid to try.”
As a result, SpaceX took the lead. Unlike the small manned space capsule traditionally used by space agencies, the starship is a cross era design. It is 50 meters high and 9 meters in diameter. Most of the internal space will be used as a living area or transformed into a space for carrying goods. The super heavy rocket that will send the Starship into space is 70 meters high and will initially be powered by 29 Raptor engines, which are also made by SpaceX in Texas.
The stacking height of starships and super heavy rockets is close to 120 meters, which is almost 10 meters higher than the “Saturn V” rocket used by NASA to transport astronauts to the lunar surface in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The thrust of the super heavy rocket is almost twice that of NASA’s lunar rocket. And unlike Saturn 5’s disposable rockets, starships and super heavy rockets can be reused many times. At the end of the mission, both main parts can land vertically on the launch pad.
The construction of the launch site is very fast. The main construction work officially began in 2016, but the test launch will be ready in 2019. This acceleration has become an important symbol of SpaceX. Musk himself is a motivated person.
Boccachka’s first large-scale test flight took place in December 2020, when a prototype starship was launched into the air to test the vertical landing system. Although it was almost successful, it exploded when it came into contact with the launch pad. The company also conducted four test flights before a starship successfully landed on May 5, 2021. As early as March this year, SpaceX began to call the boccachka base the interstellar base. Now the company is preparing to conduct the first orbital test flight of a combination of interstellar spacecraft and super heavy rockets.
SpaceX took about 16 months of additional construction to build an orbital launch pad at the launch site. This includes the launch pad used by the super heavy rocket, the launch tower that can lift the Starship to the top of the super heavy rocket and maintain the stability of the whole system before ignition, and the storage tank facilities responsible for storing fuel and other liquids before rocket launch. In addition, two huge mechanical arms, called mechazilla, are installed on the launch tower, which are mainly used to capture the returning super heavy rocket and help it maintain stability during the soft landing of the launch pad.
Whether Musk’s plan to build a city near the launch site is approved or not, the interstellar base will undoubtedly become one of the most important launch sites on earth, because the spacecraft that will return NASA astronauts to the lunar surface will be launched from here. The agency has selected the Starship as the manned lander for their Artemis return to the moon program.
Although NASA astronauts will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, their Orion crew module will not land on the lunar surface. Instead, an unmanned starship will be launched in advance from boccachko and stay in orbit around the moon, waiting for the arrival of the Orion capsule, docking with it, and allowing astronauts to transfer. Then they will fly the Starship to the surface of the moon and return after the mission is completed.
This will be the rehearsal of Musk’s ultimate goal of Mars exploration. Although this still sounds like science fiction, Buck believes that we should not underestimate Musk’s ambition to reach Mars. He said: “we think musk can do things well, and he also has the motivation to do it.” (reviewed by Tencent technology / Jinlu)