SpaceX's plans to leave Earth's orbit start with this shiny creation. Starship is the next-gen spaceship that could one day deploy satellites, carry artists around the moon and even touch down on the moon and Mars.
This dramatic rendering shows Starship, which was known as BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) at the time this image was released in September 2018, blasting away from a cloudy Earth. SpaceX says the ship and rocket are designed to be fully reusable and will be able to service Earth orbit as well as the moon and Mars.
Elon Musk's photo of the actual Starship "hopper" prototype looked very close to this rendered version he shared in a tweet on Jan. 5, 2019. The rendering shows a smoother skin, which highlights the retro sci-fi look of the design.
SpaceX assembled the shiny pieces of its planned Starship orbital prototype in late 2019. This wasn't a launch-ready version, but it shows what the spacecraft will likely look like when it's finally ready for testing.
This artist's illustration shows a SpaceX Starship launch underway. Elon Musk announced the new Starship name in November 2018. Technically, Starship is the upper stage that will carry cargo or people, while the rocket booster used to launch it is called Super Heavy.
Prior to unveiling the assembled Starship hopper prototype, Elon Musk teased the spaceship with this image shared on Twitter on Dec. 24, 2018. The vehicles in the photo help to give an idea of the scale of the massive ship. SpaceX later remove the nose cone and tested the hopper without it.
SpaceX watcher Maria Pointer captured this image of the bottom section of the Starship hopper prototype after a violent Texas windstorm in January 2019 knocked the nose cone off onto the ground. SpaceX repaired the prototype, which was designed for short jumps to test takeoff and landing systems.
The Starship hopper, nicknamed "Starhopper," used a single Raptor engine for its first test jump in late July 2019. Elon Musk shared this low-res image of a Raptor back in February 2019 prior to a test-firing. Starship will eventually use multiple Raptor engines.
Elon Musk tweeted out this fiery image of a SpaceX Raptor engine looking spitting mad. This Raptor test happened in February 2019 prior to the first Starhopper short jump in late July. The prototype "hopper" Starship used just one Raptor engine. The first orbital versions will use three, and the final Starship design calls for even more of these powerful engines.
This snub-nosed vehicle is the Starship "hopper" prototype known as Starhopper. SpaceX used it to test takeoffs and landings. It was designed to make short "hops" into the air. It successfully completed its first jump in late July 2019, reaching about 65 feet (20 meters) and moving over slightly from where it started.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET
Starhopper takes off
SpaceX successfully launched this Starhopper prototype twice from its facility in Texas. This view is from the second (and much higher) hop, which took place on Aug. 27, 2019. The hopper was used to test the Raptor engine, as well as takeoff and landing systems. SpaceX is now constructing an orbital prototype for a more ambitious Starship tests.
SpaceX is building an orbital Starship prototype in Texas. The company's first "Starhopper" prototype was meant to test basic launch, landing and rocket systems. The new prototype will potentially be able to reach Earth orbit, powered by at least three Raptor engines.
Musk tweeted this view of Starship construction in September 2019.
This photo from SpaceX founder Elon Musk shows a Starship prototype under construction in Boca Chica, Texas, in September 2019.
"Adding the rear moving fins," Musk tweeted. This prototype was designed to reach much greater heights than the "hopper" Starship that took the initial test jumps in Texas. SpaceX has been building multiple prototypes.
Elon Musk gave space fans a peek behind the scenes at the build-out for a SpaceX Starship prototype in Texas in August 2019. This round object is a bulkhead that was being rotated prior to installation inside the shiny Starship. It's used to create interior compartments. If all goes well, the bulkhead could be part of one of the first Starships to reach orbit.
Elon Musk shared this view of an architectural windbreak built at the SpaceX Texas site to protect a prototype of the Starship in August 2019. This version of Starship, which can be seen behind the windbreak, is meant to get SpaceX closer to orbit. The structure is designed to protect it from the kinds of fierce winds that knocked the cone off the original Starhopper prototype.
Elon Musk gave Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa a lift prior to a Sept. 17, 2018 press conference announcing the #dearMoon project to send a group of artists around our lunar neighbor in 2023. If all goes as planned, Starship will ferry Maezawa and a selection of six to eight artists on the ambitious private lunar mission. Maezawa purchased all of the available seats for the flight.
SpaceX released some imaginative illustrations of what a trip on Starship might look like. This artwork shows a concert in zero gravity. It ties in with SpaceX's plans to carry a group of artists around the moon with funding from Japanese billionaire Yusaka Maezawa.
SpaceX released this dramatic illustration of its Starship/BFR spacecraft posing with the moon in anticipation of one day sending a private tourism mission around the Earth's only natural satellite. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has already signed on to buy all the seats on SpaceX's planned moon trip in 2023.
These early concept images show a BFR that looks much more like a NASA space shuttle than the current shiny, stainless-steel Starship design.
Putting humans in the picture gives us a better idea of just how big a Starship orbital prototype could be. SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared this behind-the-scenes look at workers in Texas with Starship on a transporter in September 2019.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted this icy view of a Starship test tank in January 2020. The stress test involved liquid nitrogen. SpaceX pressurized the tank until it gave way to see how it would handle orbital flight conditions. The test was a success.
This futuristic rendering shows a collection of Starships hanging out on the surface of Mars. Elon Musk and SpaceX envision astronauts initially living out of the spaceships while constructing a more permanent human settlement on the Red Planet.
SpaceX sees Starship as a multi-purpose vehicle that's not just for long-distance journeys around the moon or to Mars. It's also intended for orbital missions, such as docking at the space station or delivering satellites into space. This illustration shows the spaceship docked in orbit.
Elon Musk shared this photo of a Starship orbital prototype at night in September 2019. "Three Raptors already installed," he tweeted, a reference to the three rocket engines. The first hop tests have used just a single engine.
The Starship orbital prototype is known as "SN1." Elon Musk shared this view of the production process at SpaceX's Texas facility in January 2020. It shows the SN1 liquid oxygen header tank and the nose cone under construction. SpaceX has built multiple test versions of Starship.
SpaceX shared this wide view of the Starship SN5 prototype going for a big 500-foot (150 meter) "hop" test flight in Texas in early August 2020. The prototype flew without a nose cone or fins. Some people suggested it looked like a flying thermos or grain silo.
Elon Musk tweeted this scenic view of Starship SN5 prototype in mid-air in August 2020. This was Starship's biggest hop yet. This Raptor-powered test flight was one one crucial step toward getting a Starship into orbit.