Congratulatory Statement for SpaceX's Starship Flight|
Starship Hop: NASA Should Establish a New Partnership With SpaceX
The Space Development Network calls upon the decision-makers in Washington, D.C. to recognize the implications of SpaceX's Starship for America's human spaceflight program and to prepare to establish a new public-private partnership with SpaceX with Starship at its heart.
Tuesday's Starship flight in Boca Chica, TX demonstrates the rapid progress that SpaceX is making towards a reusable, super heavy lift vehicle (SHLV).
At what Tipping Point will it become apparent that Starship is going to provide SHLV capabilities and at far, far lower cost? That Point would be when Starship first achieves orbit. When that happens, it would be irresponsible for the decision makers in Washington DC to not let NASA take advantage of this opportunity and establish a new public-private partnership with SpaceX with Starship as its focus for both the Moon and Mars.
This Tipping Point may be achieved very soon. The Raptor engine is developed, the construction processes are being mastered, and the high bay to assemble the Super Heavy booster is complete, and the Super Heavy booster is even now being assembled. Successful hops of the Starship will greatly reduce the odds of Super Heavy booster launch and recovery failure. It is reasonable to expect that the Super Heavy will boost the Starship and be recovered while the Starship proceeds to orbit. At that point, reasonable people (including journalists) will begin to question whether NASA should be planning to take advantage of this capability.
It seems probable that Starship achieving orbit could happen within a year. With each step of progress, the decision-makers need to be making plans for a public-private partnership between NASA and SpaceX that goes well beyond the current lander contract and recognizes that Starship will be superior to SLS and hence will become the SHLV that our nation will be using.
Doug Plata, MD, MPH