SpaceX

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk teases new Starship photos and “heavy metal” BFR

CEO Elon Musk says that SpaceX will share new photos of BFR's Starship upper stage in January and begin building boosters in Spring 2019. (SpaceX)

Drawn in by Teslarati photographer Pauline Acalin’s most recent photos of Port of LA Falcon 9 recovery operations SpaceX is in the midst of, CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter on December 8th to discuss titanium grid fins and – more importantly – answer a miscellaneous handful of questions about the status of BFR’s development.

Marked lately by rapid-fire, wide-reaching changes to BFR’s general structural composite, Musk at long last confirmed what some suspected – now known as Starship/Super Heavy, the BFR program has officially moved away from carbon fiber composites as the primary material of choice for the rocket’s structure and propellant tanks, instead pivoting to what Musk described as a “fairly heavy metal”.

Aside from his confirmation that SpaceX has moved to metallic tanks and structures on BFR’s spaceship upper stage and booster (Starship/Super Heavy), Musk further stated that SpaceX was planning to release new photos of a prototype Starship – currently under construction for full-scale hop-tests in South Texas – as few as four weeks from today.

 

It’s hard to say what those photos will show, but suffice it say that Musk would not tease the release of BFR-related photos on Twitter if they were not expected to be at least a touch spectacular. Per the CEO’s brief comments on hardware at his September 2018 introduction to Dear Moon, the most likely candidates for those photos would be a Starship (BFS) thrust structure in the middle of Raptor integration and additional progress being made on the ship prototype’s structures, perhaps including completed metallic tanks and some of its aerodynamic fins and wings.

Question: “Is Super Heavy in development at all, or just starship right now?”

Elon Musk: “Both, but demo Starship is being built now, whereas Super Heavy hardware will start getting built in spring”

While BFR’s official development schedule has essentially been thrown up in the air by these recent design changes, both Musk and COO/President Gwynne Shotwell stated earlier this year that they expected spaceship (now Starship) hop tests to begin no earlier than (NET) the end of 2019 – Q4 or December, in other words. SpaceX just recently began a major ramp in activity at its South Texas test and launch facilities, beginning construction on several partially prepared acres that were long ago predicted to support a wholly private Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy launch pad.

These new plans to release official BFR photos simply adds to the ever-growing pile of major SpaceX events that could potentially occur in Q 2019, including Crew Dragon’s first uncrewed trip to orbit and the International Space Station (ISS), Falcon Heavy’s second launch ever, and the launch of several additional prototype Starlink satellites, among many other possibilities.

2019 is gonna be wild. Stay tuned for additional updates on SpaceX’s future plans and Musk’s spontaneous Twitter Q&As as the new year nears.


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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk teases new Starship photos and “heavy metal” BFR
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