From the Starship development facility in Boca Chica, Texas, Elon Musk gave an update on the company’s progress and intentions for Starship, its next-generation launch spacecraft. The combined Starship and Super Heavy booster launch vessel, measuring approximately 400 feet tall, provided a spectacular backdrop for Musk.
However, much of what Musk said about Starship wasn’t new, and what he could provide about the project’s current status in terms of flight testing and development raises some questions about how we get from here to the fanciful planet-jumping vision SpaceX depicted in a new concept video.
Musk has emphasized his existential justification for his aim to transport people to Mars and beyond on a more permanent basis on several occasions, but during this update, he added a new goal centered on the preservation of all Earth life. He didn’t specifically mention Noah’s Ark, but the parallel holds up: For people who truly care about not just humans, but all life on Earth, it is critical that we evolve into a multi-planet species in the long run, and eventually go outside the solar system and bring life with us.
We are life stewards, life’s guardians, […] the species we love can’t build spaceships, but we can, and we can bring them with us, which I believe is really significant for anyone who care about the environment and all the creatures on Earth. In the end, SpaceX’s CEO minimized this argument for the mission, preferring to focus on a second reason: inspiration. People may get “excited about the future” by things like starships and making society multi-planetary, he said – a theme he’s hit before when outlining SpaceX’s goals.
Mostly, this was part of a longer response to criticisms that Musk and SpaceX are squandering money that could be better spent solving problems on Earth, to which he responded that he agrees that “more than 99 percent of our resources should be oriented towards solving problems on Earth,” and that this is already the case. SpaceX has previously discussed and even exhibited concept animations of the Starship launch process, but for this update, they had a fresh and more current version on display.
The brief video above more nearly matches the present launch complex in Boca Chica, but with some aesthetic flair on the towers that give them Blade Runner overtones. The animation also shows the in-orbit docking of two Starship ships, which SpaceX hasn’t previously shown, though company has talked about how they’ll be able to recharge in space to prepare for the journey to Mars. Musk claimed the business is still working out the intricacies of the docking procedure, but that it should be “much harder to dock with the space station than it is to dock with yourself,” and that SpaceX ships regularly dock with the Space Station.