Latest SpaceX Starship looks straight from the 1950s

11 Jan 2019

SpaceX rocket booster during take-off as part of November 2018’s Es’hail-2 mission. Image: SpaceX

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has shown the world the first suborbital test Starship craft as it works towards an even bigger orbital version.

As part of its long-term goal to reach the moon and Mars, SpaceX has passed another major milestone with the reveal of its latest prototype ahead of its first ever test flight. Originally called the ‘BFR’, the spacecraft was revealed on Twitter by company founder Elon Musk, who stressed that the image is not a render but one from real life.

Adding this caveat was important as, at first glance, the craft appears as if it has come straight out of 1950s science-fiction, with a retro, shiny design that looks as if it is made out of tinfoil.

Showcasing the sheer size of this craft, a person wearing SpaceX’s own spacesuit design is shown standing beneath it looking rather small.

Ahead of schedule

This image comes a few days after Musk teased what the craft would look like. If you compare the two images, you will notice that the render looks a lot smoother, polished and taller than the real deal.

Explaining on Twitter, Musk said that this is because the latest photo is a suborbital craft designed only to test vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), whereas the rendered image’s scale will be what takes humans beyond Earth.

Also, the wrinkling seen on the outside of the craft will not appear on the final version. It will feature a much thicker hull and a smoother curved nose section.

Musk said that the Starship VTOL tests will resemble SpaceX’s Falcon 9 ‘Grasshopper’ test flights which flew 250m up into the sky, paused and then returned to Earth.

Previously, SpaceX said that it expects to fly the test Starship as soon as March or April, so it appears the project is ahead of schedule by a number of months. However, the final space-travelling version will be much longer in development.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic