5. Would a 1/3 scale Starship ... [be] able to provide support eventual Mars Colonization?
I've thought the design point for Starship and SH Booster were similar to the DC3 (airplane) or 18-wheel truck. Reusable, cargo focused, able to support passengers, too. Not a 747 or Queen Elisabeth II Ocean liner, but heavy duty, reliable cartage.There will be room for smaller vehicles - panel vans instead of 18-wheelers - as well as mega cruisers (think rotational artificial gravity) in the medium-to-far future. One size won't fit all. Any more than a pickup truck would satisfy all heavy trucking needs, or the QEII be the only recreational boat worth building ...
I have thought for awhile that for LEO operations, a smaller version of a Starship could be quite practical - especially for crew and ISS/future space station ferries (cargo as well).Docking the regular sized Starship right now seems a little dubious just due to the sheer mass of it and likely impringement of RCS plumes on the solar panels. A smaller vehicle could mitigate this while still providing plenty of space.I don't think that a rapidly reusable vehicle for LEO has to be as big as the current Starship. Starship is ultimately meant for Mars, but something designed for LEO could be smaller in my opinion. Ground ops would probably be simplified as well (less fuel, less TPS for example).
I have been following this community for a number of years but am posting for the first time. I am NOT advocating for SPACEX to re-design Starship. I simply was looking for your opinions on my long-held belief; In some (not all) aspects Starship would be more successful and further along in development at this stage if it had been initially scaled down to something roughly half-way in between Falcon and the current design. For the sake of this argument, I imagine a launch vehicle that also uses Raptor engines, and the same approaches to material design and fabrication. My hypothetical baby-Starship would have probably had 9-12 Raptors on the booster and 1-2 Raptors on an initially expendable upper stage. I think this hypothetical LV would have produced FH expendable mass to orbit at a cost equal to or less than Falcon 9. Another way to think of it might just be a better/cheaper New Glenn. I realize that most of the design decisions on Starship, including it's massive size, are what enable it to serve its mission as a (Mars Colonial Transporter) and this scaled-down version could never transport 100 humans to the red planet. Consider though please:1. Could the 1/3 scale Starship have progressed any faster through testing, particularly through the FAA approval process?2. Would a 1/3 scale Starship be any better to serve existing Starlink / Comsat / NASA / DoD launch requirements?3. Would a 1/3 scale Starship have been better positioned to improve vs replace the Artemis program?4. Would a 1/3 scale Starship still have a reasonable upgrade-path to 2nd stage re-use including in-orbit refueling within a few years after initial capability?5. Would a 1/3 scale Starship have provided a faster path to Mars Exploration while still able to provide support eventual Mars Colonization?Thanks,Bobby
Thank you all for you replies and constructive criticism. It seems to be a consensus opinion that the second stage "Starship" would not scale down well and maintain it's planned functionality including EDL, That is certainly valid. I perhaps should have chosen my terms better in that I was thinking more of the entire launch system including the booster which is also referred to as "Starship". My hypothetical vehicle would have began as a 1/3 to 1/2 scale booster with an expendable (no aero surfaces / no thermal protection) upper stage. I am imagining a booster that still is 9M or 8M diameter but much shorter (less than 40M). Perhaps that could have provided growth opportunities by adding rings and engines to the booster later to facilitate later adding a re-usable upper stage vehicle similar to the current design. Regardless, I understand completely that this path is moot as the "growth option" as I was describing eventually looks identical to the design as it stands today. As another poster pointed out, if Terran R manages to reach operational status that might show if there was any validity to that approach. Thanks Again - Bobby
Something like that may be growing in China.CALT: Methalox engine, shape of Starship with 20 t payload.https://spacenews.com/starship-lookalike-among-chinas-new-human-spaceflight-concepts