Stainless steel goes stellar

A discussion on space-travel, Mars, the Moon and Metal.

Commercial space travel

The year 2019 will see Earth’s first commercial, privately owned and funded spaceships blasting out of our fragile atmosphere.

Not quite the science fact that science fiction predicted for us, but we are marching towards it every day. I am owed a jetpack by someone, and I want to be zipping about in it at some point before I die.

These privately designed, commercially funded spaceships will be carrying human beings on board, both serving as crew and as paying passengers. People with a ton of cash to spare will be able to buy sightseeing trips into space.

These first, tentative steps in the commercialisation of space travel, will hopefully spur on the recolonisation of the moon and even get people to Mars. Visiting Mars will be a huge step forward for humankind, leaving Earth and being the first people to stand a completely uninhabited (or is it?) planet will be the most mind-blowing engineering milestone in the history of our small, blue world.

The Viking 1 lander’s sampling arm collecting soil samples on Mars in 1976. Image by Roel van der Hoorn.

The Viking 1 lander’s sampling arm collecting soil samples on Mars in 1976. Image by Roel van der Hoorn.

Money as fuel

To get to humans to the planet Mars, or even past the Kármán line, the internationally recognised boundary of space you need many, many things including a load of highly intelligent engineers, talented fabricators but the most important item at the very top of the list is the universal lubricant, money! You need a lot of money. Rocket design burns through cash almost as quickly as the finished rocket burn through rocket fuel.

Elon Musk

Please step forward Mr Elon Musk and his money and his ability to raise even more money. SpaceX or Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, the rocket company, founded by Mr Musk is heading to Mars and at the moment is leading the field.

SpaceX Elon Musk’s Stainless Steel Starship

SpaceX Elon Musk’s Stainless Steel Starship

On Christmas Eve 2018, Elon Musk posted a photo of the bullet-shaped, stainless steel spaceship his company is working on. He calls it the ‘Stainless Steel Starship’.

SpaceX’s facility in south Texas is designing and building the spaceship. The beautiful ship is constructed out of glorious stainless steel!

Mr Musk has reportedly said that the stainless steel used for the construction of his spaceship is chemically different from the stainless steel used by NASA during the Atlas rocket program, SpaceX treats the stainless steel at cryogenic temperatures to create an exciting material that has a better strength-to-weight ratio than carbon fibre.
SpaceX plans to send their spaceship into space in a mirror finish. We at Double Stone Steel have the technology available now to add PVD copper colour or PVD gold colour to the rocketship! Someone call me!

Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, and Elon Musk have decided that at some point in the future the planet earth will certainly become uninhabitable, this will either be caused by humans destroying the planet by pollution or warfare. It could be some terrible disease that will wipe us out. Or it could be by the planet being hit by a meteorite. Jeff Bezos, using his enormous private wealth of 150 billion dollars, founded Blue Origin a company with the enormously ambitious goal of making the human species a “multi-planet race” ie occupying more than one planet. This is the same goal as SpaceX. So if humans are wiped out on earth there will still be viable populations elsewhere.

Blue Origin’s first rocket system is called ‘New Shepard’. it was named after Alan Shepard, the first American to be blasted into space. This system will be used to take paying passengers into low earth orbit.

Using their rocket system New Shepard which was named after Alan Shepard, the first American to be blasted into space, Blue Origin will start sending paying passengers into space in 2019 or 2020. 2020 pushes the date back from the expected 2018. The tickets will cost around $250,000 to $300,000 per seat. Mr Bezos puts approximately one billion dollars of his own money into the company every year to keep it afloat.

Is it safe?

Let’s remember however that rocket launches are really quite dangerous. They enjoy only around 96-98 per cent success rate.

That rate sounds high but really? 2 to 4 failures out of every 100 rocket launches? Compare that to airline statistics, they have their safety pretty much buttoned up. One plane crash for every 1.2 million flights and millions of people are still very nervous about flying.

My favourite fact about airline travel is that statistically speaking you have more chance of being killed by a falling coconut than dying in an aeroplane crash. I will be getting on a rocketship when the odds are similar or better!