The prowess of SpaceX and Starship are freaking out NASA

A fully reusable spacecraft, capable of ensuring a regular link between the Moon and the Earth and of transporting a crew and a cargo of more than 100 tons there. In a few years, assures Elon Musk, such a machine will no longer be a fantasy but a reality.

The Starship spacecraft of its company SpaceX should make its first orbital flight by the end of 2022, before taking the path of the terrestrial satellite and then, eventually, heading for Mars. NASA has a similar program, called Space Launch System (SLS) and intended to propel a crew to the Moon, aboard the Orion spacecraft.

This program, named Artemis, is responsible for preparing the first manned mission of the American space agency to the planet Mars. Alas, the first takeoff of the SLS has already been delayed, and each of its flights is estimated at 2 billion dollars (1.76 billion euros) – an amount probably too high for NASA to ensure, alone , a permanent presence on the Moon.

Not only is SpaceX ahead, but the company promises that its ships will be cheaper and quickly reusable. This would allow more round trips and economies of scale, while Artemis plans flights spaced at least two years apart. NASA therefore seems doubly overwhelmed, both behind on its own schedule and on the technology it has chosen.

Nervous Nasa

“Once the reliability of the system is demonstrated with numerous flights, which could only take a few months, it will render all existing launchers obsolete.explains to Politico Rand Simberg, an aerospace engineer. If SLS only flies once every two years, it simply won’t become a major player in the future of space.”

The American space agency is therefore very worried about the progress of its private competitor. Or to use the cruder words employed to Politico by a Washington lobbyist working in the sector, “they shit on it”.

However, while Musk certainly has a knack for thwarting pessimistic predictions, he also has a long history of bombastic broken promises. Whether it’s about Tesla’s autopilot or its underground Loop, the billionaire seems particularly fond of unsustainable schedules. It therefore remains to be seen whether that of the Starship can be respected.

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