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SpaceX’s Elon Musk is as much a showman — and, to a certain extent, an artist — as he is a corporate CEO and engineering innovator.
When Musk launched his Falcon Heavy last year, he sent his used Tesla Roadster with a mannequin in the driver’s seat dubbed “Starman” into space. The image of the sports car with the Starman passenger flying into interplanetary space with the earth in the background was the most iconic of 2017, if not of the 21st century.
Fast-forward - December - Musk - SpaceX - Test
Fast-forward to December 2018 and continuing in 2019; we see that Musk is at it again. SpaceX is building a test article dubbed “StarHopper” for its proposed two-stage reusable spaceship dubbed the “Starship.”
StarHopper has a serious engineering purpose: testing liftoff, hovering and landing for the proposed much larger spacecraft. But it is also a work of art. It resembles nothing less than one of those retro rocketships that Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon flew into battle evil aliens in those 1930s serials. 1950s science fiction featured such spacecraft, especially the classic “Destination Moon.”
Image - StarHopper - Shape - Control - Stern
The image is derived from StarHopper’s bullet-like shape, the control fins on its stern, and especially the use of stainless steel, as Ars Technica notes. Modern rockets, especially SpaceX’s Falcon launch vehicles, are built primarily of carbon composites because of their high strength and lightweight.
Musk chose stainless steel to build StarHopper because it performs slightly better than carbon composites at cold temperatures, worse at room temperatures and “vastly better” at high temperatures. The latter is the key.
Starship - Part - SpaceX - Rocket - Moon
“Starship,” the part of SpaceX’s big rocket that will fly to the moon, Mars and beyond, will have to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and endure the high temperatures of air friction.
StarHopper, as it is being constructed, looks beautiful gleaming in the Texas sun. People have seem its like on TV and...
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