In a Twitter Spaces discussion with Bloomberg journalist Ashlee Vance, Elon Musk revealed SpaceX had made “well over a thousand” changes to its Super Heavy/Starship rocket following the vehicle’s first test launch in April, which failed to reach low Earth orbit.
“So I think the probability of the next flight working — or getting to orbit — is much higher than the last one,” Musk said on Saturday with Vance while discussing SpaceX’s Starship.
“Maybe it’s like 60%; it depends on how well we do at stage separation,” Musk noted. Recall, ahead of Starship’s maiden flight on April 20, the world’s richest man placed ’50-50 odds’ of it reaching orbit. After a half-dozen engines shut down or never started and the rocket never separated from its first stage, SpaceX activated a self-destruct system to blow it apart.
For the next flight, which could be only months away and would need to be cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration, Musk said the stage separation system had been modified:
“We made sort of a late-breaking change that’s really quite significant to the way that stage separation works,” Musk said, describing the switch to hot staging.
He said, “There’s a meaningful payload-to-orbit advantage with hot-staging that is conservatively about a 10% increase.”
The Russians have used hot staging for years, and Musk believes this technique could help propel Starship to orbit.
“This is something that the Soviets and Russians have used in their space designs,” he added.
Musk said the new stage separation technique would be the “most risky thing, I think, for the next flight.”
As for the thousand changes to the rocket, Musk didn’t go into details about the changes, but did note SpaceX is making changes to the launch pad after to was damaged on the first launch:
“We’re actually going for overkill on the steel sandwich and the concrete, so that should leave the base of the pad in much better shape than the last time.”
Besides addressing some of the upgrades that might help Starship reach orbit on the next launch, Musk declined to speak about a possible initial public offering for Starlink.
However, days ago, Fox News Charlie Gasparino floated around rumors on Twitter about possible Starlink IPO “this year.”
SCOOP: @SpaceX investors increasingly say they expect an IPO of its @Starlink subsidiary this year so @elonmusk can monetize some of his holdings to pay for @Twitter expansion etc., without selling more @Tesla stock. Musk owns 50% of SpaceX. More 345pm w @LizClaman @FoxBusiness
— Charles Gasparino (@CGasparino) June 21, 2023
Bloomberg reported Friday that SpaceX is valued around $150 billion.