SpaceX Starship Prototype Damaged by Severe Winds

The Starship spacecraft has been blown over at its home in Texas.
Jessica Miley

The SpaceX spacecraft which could one day take space colonists to Mars fell over in strong winds at its home in Boca Chica, Texas on Tuesday. The Starship vessel suffered serious damage in the fall.

Musk reported that the moorings holding the vessel down broke during 50 miles per hour winds. The fairing suffered the worst damage, and it is expected to take weeks to repair.

Retro-looking spacecraft destined for Mars

Luckily the vessels propellant tanks escaped injury. The Starship is designed to launch as a payload from the large rocket booster called the Super Heavy.

This damaged vessel has been called a “test hopper” by Musk and is shorter than the finished product will eventually be. The final product will also come with a much sturdier skin made from a special stainless steel alloy that can withstand the extreme conditions of deep space.

Stainless steel used to withstand extreme space conditions

Using stainless steel is an unusual choice, but Musk has said the alloy will not “buckle, will withstand extreme temperatures, and use water or fuel as the “first-ever regenerative heat shield.” 

Musk has also tweeted that the prototypes Raptor engines have been “radically redesigned” with materials from SpaceX’s “superalloy foundry.”

On January 5, Musk tweeted he hoped to begin testing of the prototype within a few weeks, although that timeline will likely be stretched now the repairs need to be completed. Starship is an integral part of Musk’s plan to become an ‘interplanetary species.’

In an interview last year he said there was a 70% chance that he would be among the first humans to head to the red planet, at the same time he acknowledged the risks involved in deep space colonization. 

“Your probability of dying on Mars is much higher than on Earth. It’s gonna be hard. There’s a good chance of death, going in a little can through deep space," Elon said in an interview with Axios.

SpaceX cut staff ahead of an ambitious year

SpaceX announced last week they would be cutting 10% of its 6,000 employee workforce as part of a new strategic realignment, as the company ventures forth into the next generation of projects. 

The ambitious space exploration company stated it needed to cut employees in anticipation of “extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead”.

SpaceX is gearing up for some major projects this year, and the decision to cut staff is one way to free up some cash. SpaceX explained the decision saying: “To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company. Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations. This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team. We are grateful for everything they have accomplished and their commitment to SpaceX’s mission. This action is taken only due to the extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead and would not otherwise be necessary."

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