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Update on Starship protype #9

Link here. The article not only provides video and the status of prototype #9 after its fall against the side of the assembly building, it also provides the status of the numerous other prototypes, both of Starship and Super Heavy.

In addition, the article shows the clean-up of the remains of Starship #8 from the landing pad.

All told, it appears that Starship #9 has been repaired from its fall, and is being prepped for a 50,000 foot flight sometime around New Year’s.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors. The ebook can be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner. Note that the price for the ebook, $3.99, goes up to $5.99 on September 1, 2022.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • geoffc

    If you are sending aa vehicle to Mars, it would be nice to know it is not that hard to repair. Even in rough circumstances. So this all told, is possibly a good thing.

    Even if they simply pressure test it, and find it breaks, they have learned a critical lesson. (Limits of stress the hull can take in this sort of fall).

  • Questioner


    SpaceX was lucky because there would have been a disaster if the vehicle fell in the opposite direction. The soft hollow aluminum structure of the upper right flap acted like a crash structure and saved the main body of the missile from damage.

  • LocalFluff

    At least the military industrial complex seems to have decided to not delay the Orion by spending a year to replace its failed power unit. There’s a backup, what are safety margins for anyway? Perhaps they are for once feeling a bit of urgency.

  • Steve Richter

    when is Starship expected to be launched into Earth orbit and beyond? Just read the first SpaceX trip to Mars is planned for 2024. What are the milestones between now and then?

  • Steve Richter: ’24 is not likely for a first trip to Mars. They might fly an unmanned demo mission to Mars vicinity by then, but even that is unlikely.

    Based on their pace of progress, I expect the first orbital Starship flight before the end of ’21. The first launch of Super Heavy also in ’21. The first launch of both together not likely before ’22, with the first orbital launch likely by ’23/’24. That launch, or the next, might be the demo flight to Mars.

    Even then, they need to do a lot of work to fit the thing out for cargo and manned fights.

  • Dick Eagleson


    The Starship’s flaps are made of the same stainless steel alloy as its hull. There is no aluminum in Starship’s structure.

    Steve Richter,

    Early 2021 should see a quickening pace of Starship prototype “hops” given that there are now two launch mounts and two landing pads to support such activity and that the production facility seems able to crank out a new completed prototype roughly every month. Perhaps starting with SN15 or so, the prototypes will have full complements of six Raptors installed, the usual three gimabling units in the center with sea level bells and three fixed Raptorvacs with the much larger vaccum-optimized bells mounted in places left vacant on current prototypes.

    BN1 (Booster Number 1), the first Super Heavy prototype, should come together quickly once all parts are in-hand. Most already are. The main major bits we haven’t seen yet are the giant grid fins. As soon as Boca Chica Gal sights one of those coming in on a flatbed, I think it will take no more than 2 – 4 weeks to complete BN1.

    BN1 will likely make its first test hop sometime in 1Q 2021. The first orbital test of the entire 400-foot SH-Starship stack is likely to take place in the back half of 2021. BN1, it is said, will have only 2 – 4 Raptors initially installed, though there seem to be provisions to increase that to eight. The first Super Heavy to be built to support an orbital test may well have provision for mounting an entire complement of 28 engines, but the first such test may have only a dozen with the Starship to be launched atop it having little or no payload aboard. The first “full chat” test with all 28 engines installed may have to wait for completion and delivery of an off-shore platform. That test could happen some time in 2022.

    Based on two recent Elon Musk interviews, the plan is now for the first Mars expedition carrying people to depart in 2026, though “if everything goes well” Elon says 2024 is not yet entirely off the table. In either case, there would be a cargo-only excursion two years prior to pre-position supplies and perhaps pieces of a propellant production plant to await arrival by human crews.

    At least two Starships would be sent on each expedition. Even two cargo-only Starships to Mars would be a very ambitious goal for 2022. I suspect the cargo pre-positioning squadron will go in 2024 and will likely consist of some number of cargo Starships numbering in the low two-digits at least. The first people will go in 2026. This flotilla will comprise at least two or three times as many hulls as the 2024 effort. A dozen or more will be “passenger liner” Starships and the remainder will be of other types – mostly cargo Starships, but with perhaps a few tanker and depot variants as well.

  • Questioner

    Dick Eagleson:

    Can you prove your statement? Many Thanks. We know for sure that at least the flaps of the prototype MK1 were made of an Al 7075 alloy. This was evidenced by high-resolution pictures of the manufacturer’s prints that could be seen on the panels of the flaps.

  • Edward

    Steve Richter asked: “Just read the first SpaceX trip to Mars is planned for 2024. What are the milestones between now and then?

    For major milestones, we can work backward.

    There are at least four versions of Starship: manned, unmanned cargo (for offloading on the Moon or Mars), unmanned tanker, and unmanned payload (launches other spacecraft to orbit).

    To go to Mars, an unmanned cargo version of starship is needed. Dick Eagleson noted that the first Mars landing will likely be an unmanned cargo, but this will have to be developed by 2024 for NASA’s manned (and womanned) return to the Moon. I expect SpaceX will want their first Starship on Mars to prove that Starships can launch and return from Mars, it (or one of them, if they send two) is likely to launch from Mars and return to Earth. Return is part of their business plan. they do not intend to strand anyone there.

    SpaceX has a commitment to take a customer around the Moon in the next three years, or so, so a manned version will have to be developed by around 2023. The unmanned tanker will also be necessary for that mission.

    Speaking of which, to get to Mars or the Moon, an unmanned tanker Starship will be needed, so that has to also be developed and tested in orbit.

    Starship reentry and landing will have to be developed, tested, and (hopefully) perfected before any of these other milestones can be reached.

    To test reentry, Super Heavy will have to be developed at least to the point of getting Starship to orbit. Super Heavy successful landings can come later, if it comes to that.

    That is a high level view of the milestones that SpaceX needs in order to go to Mars and to fulfill current obligations.

    I didn’t mention the unmanned payload version of Starship, because it does not seem to be directly necessary to achieve the Mars goal. It would, however, help pay the bills. I expect it to be developed either with the other versions or immediately afterward.

    They have many more test articles under construction than are needed for just those, because SpaceX learned early on that failure is a part of developing completely new rocket systems. The methods are new, the fuel is new, and the goal is new. SpaceX is working on a project that is more than any nation has ever undertaken.

    Private space started out, in 2004, putting a man into suborbital space, something which previous to that time only large government programs had achieved. Few people thought it could be done, and certainly not for the budgets that private organizations had available. That was impressive, back then.

    Next, private space took cargo to the International Space Station, again, something which previous to that time only large government programs had achieved. Many aerospace experts thought that Orbital Sciences and SpaceX would fail at this goal, but neither did.

    Recently, private space took people to the International Space Station. Previous to that time only large government programs had put people into orbit. Some people thought that SpaceX might fail at this goal, but this was also successful. How far we have come in less than two decades.

    Now private space is attempting to go to Mars, something which previous to this time not even large government programs have achieved. Once again, many people think that SpaceX will fail. We shall see.

    Robert Zimmerman recently said that the transition from government space programs to private space programs is complete, and I think that this shows that he is right.

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