The future of space travel could be a shiny one. During last night’s livestreamed event, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the design of Starship, a reusable spacecraft that will “carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and anywhere else in the solar system.”
It’s powered by the world’s most powerful rocket, the Super Heavy, which comprises 37 Raptor engines, complete with landing legs and grid fins for return trips back to Earth. Musk claims manned test flights could begin as early as next year.
Part of its rapid reusability comes from the heat shield design that SpaceX has devised for Starship, which includes a stainless steel finish on one half of the spacecraft, with ceramic tiles used on the bottom where the heat is most intense during re-entry. Musk said that both of these are highly resistant to the stresses of reentry and conducive to frequent reuse, without incurring tremendous cost – unlike their initial concept, which used carbon fibre in place of stainless steel.