Nasa has revealed further details of a proposed plan to use Elon Musk’s Starship in future missions to Mars and the moon.
It released a briefing document exploring what might happen to the environment around Kennedy Space Center, Florida, when Elon’s mighty vessel is launched.
The billionaire’s SpaceX is currently testing a prototype called Starhopper that’s an early version of a spacecraft called Spaceship Super Heavy which could play a vital role in humanity’s exploration of the heavens.
In Nasa’s ‘environmental assessment’, it wrote: ‘SpaceX has successfully demonstrated their ability to service the launch industry with the Falcon family of launch vehicles now developing a multi-mission, fully reusable, super heavy-lift launch vehicle.
‘The Starship/ Super Heavy launch vehicle would reduce the cost of access to space, exceeding the capabilities of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, enabling cost-effective delivery of cargo and people to the Moon and Mars.’
Nasa is working to ‘develop and implement formal agreements with SpaceX for use of Nasa assets and to provide services and commodities to enable Starship/Super Heavy launches’, it added.
Its briefing documents said the link-up with Elon will ‘support NASA in its continued mission to expand commercial uses of space and the space industry by facilitating SpaceX efforts to strengthen United States space transportation and launch infrastructure’ as well as aiding the ‘US goal of near-term exploration’,
‘It would also provide greater mission capability to Nasa and SpaceX by continuing the development of ever-evolving next-generation launch vehicles and spacecraft,’ it added.
Elon Musk successfully carried out a triumphant test of Starhopper last week.
During the first test, flames shot from the tip of the billionaire’s vessel as his engineers launched a first test which appeared to go badly wrong.
But a few days later, Musk got his rocket up off the ground. It propelled itself to a height of about 20 metres before touching down gently.
The SpaceX founder was very pleased to see his latest creation do its job.
He wrote: ‘Starhopper flight successful. Water towers *can* fly haha!!’
One of his fans then said ‘congrats’ and said ‘the moon is there’, which appears to be a reference to Elon’s lunar-landing ambitions.
Elon replied: ‘Thanks!’
You can see footage of the launch in the tech mogul’s tweets, which we’ve embedded below.
The successful test capped off a tough few days at SpaceX, which is testing the Starhopper at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.
In the first flight Starhopper was supposed to lift gently off the ground and then touch back down gently in a ‘hop’ taking it 65 feet off the ground.
But instead, flames blasted out of the rocket’s top in an embarrassing premature conflagration incident.
‘It appears as though we have had an abort on today’s test. As you can see there, the vehicle did not lift off today,’ said SpaceX engineer Kate Tice.
‘As I mentioned before, this is a development program, today was a test flight designed to test the boundaries of the vehicle.’
There’s no shame in having flames shoot out of the end of your rocket because mishaps like this are just part of parcel of testing a spacecraft.
Starhopper is a test version of Starship, the craft Elon hopes to use to send humans to Mars.
Starship was previously known as BFR (Big Falcon Rocket or the Big F***ing Rocket).
Musk now believes humanity will be able to found a permanent settlement on the Red Planet in just over three decades.
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