Musk says in this Tweet on Nov 9, 2019,

"If we build as many Starships as Falcons, so ~100 vehicles & each does 100 tons to orbit, that’s a capacity of 10 million tons of payload to orbit per year"

So he's assuming 100 vehicles lifting 100 tons 3 times a day for 365 days for a payload to orbit of 10.95 MT. He has specified on a few other occassions Starship's theoretical three times a day limit,

All this talk of Starship launching three times a day even in the context of a Falcon 9 raises the question, "has a single Falcon 9 even once ever launched even twice in a day"?

Inspired from a comment on the question, "Will SpaceX's fleet of rockets triple the entire United States demand for methane/natural gas?"

  • $\begingroup$ The question is somewhat awkward because while Starship is designed to return to the ground in one piece, Falcon9 is not. The booster returns (and needs, of course, days or weeks to be recovered, maintained, checked, positioned, stacked and refueled), but the second stage doesn't. Too hard because it's too fast. Too much energy to shed. That's why Starship is a quantum leap that Musk gets righteously excited about. It's like the Winchester rifle of spaceships and will be "the rocket that won space", if it can keep half its promises. $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2021 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ The above was to say "it can't." ;-). $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2021 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Peter-ReinstateMonica well it's inspired from your comment you said "And no individual spaceship will fly thrice a day. " if you think it hasn't been done thus far with Falcon because of the second stage issues mentioned above but that it could be with Starship which doesn't require a second stage feel free to answer with that here. Sounds like a fair point. But then why if Starship is a "quantum leap" couldn't it "fly thrice a day"? $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2021 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ It won't fly three times a day for the same reason the booster doesn't, plus some more (higher temperatures (and loads?), heat shield repairs, more complicated vehicle). It's a quantum leap nonetheless. $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2021 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, the Starship doesn't need a second stage because it is the second stage ;-). But that means it goes to a higher degree of abuse. $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2021 at 17:54

1 Answer 1


As I said in a comment, the second stage of the Falcon 9 is not re-usable. It falls back to Earth and disintegrates on re-entry. (Although the spectacular footage in the linked article is from a re-entry after a failed de-orbit burn, so a proper de-orbit may look less spectacular.)

So let's look at the part that can be re-used: Spaceflight Now has an article about re-usability from May 2021 that claims

So far, the shortest time between two flights of the same Falcon 9 booster has been 27 days.

  • $\begingroup$ I think you should clarify this with the comments to talk about both why the comparison is invalid, and also why you feel a Starship wouldn't fly twice (or three times a day), re "It won't fly three times a day for the same reason the booster doesn't, plus some more (higher temperatures (and loads?), heat shield repairs, more complicated vehicle)." $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2021 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ That's a different question, but the short is that Starship was made from the ground up to be completely reused, while Falcon 9 wasn't. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Oct 27, 2021 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ @PearsonArtPhoto Well, the booster was also designed from the beginning with the goal of reusability. There were ideas to reuse the second stage as well but it proved too hard for a multitude of problems, many of which have been addressed by Starship. $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2021 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ … inspected, whereas methane burns much more cleanly. Falcon 9 was designed to be reused 10 times with minimal refurbishment, Starship is in the process of being designed to be rapidly reused hundreds of times. Falcon 9 is designed to do better than Space Shuttle, Starship is designed to be similar to an airliner (land, refuel, wipe down the armrests, take off again). Are they there yet? Well, at the moment, the heat shield tiles fall off when someone just looks at the vehicle, so clearly not, but then again, the Shuttle had the same problem and they fixed it. $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2021 at 10:13
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    $\begingroup$ @JörgWMittag Re "Starship is in the process of being designed to be rapidly reused hundreds of times": Good luck with that. Airplanes have been designed with the goal of rapid usaility as well, but when you push the envelope you get some resistance. From a NYT article from 2000: "British Airways says its seven Concordes get up to 57 hours of maintenance for every hour in the air." $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2021 at 12:23

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