Lighter, Stronger, Faster | When Will the SpaceX Starship Be Made In Carbon Fiber?

Hey, you!

I know you came for our awesome blog post, but we have to let you in on something. Our main business is a shop that sells a ton of unique and cool lifestyle and personal accessories made with REAL carbon fiber.

If you love carbon fiber as much as we do, go explore!

Following the explosion of the SpaceX Starship launch test flight in April 2023, there has been considerable speculation surrounding the materials used in its construction. 

What happened with the Starship? And is stainless steel the right material for it?

Explore the potential advantages of carbon fiber for the SpaceX Starship and future spacecraft by learning the fascinating science of materials for space exploration.


In This Article:


How Much Does Carbon Fiber Need to Improve to Be on the SpaceX Starship?

The SpaceX Starship Is Not Carbon Fiber - For Now

In a departure from their initial plans, SpaceX has used 300-series stainless steel instead of carbon fiber to construct the Starship. 

This decision has attracted significant attention from experts in the aerospace industry and the general public alike, who are intrigued by the factors contributing to the spacecraft’s remarkable power and capabilities. 

The biggest question is: Is this already a step-back for SpaceX, or is this a carefully made decision for a bigger mission?

As Elon Musk’s SpaceX aims to develop the most formidable rocket system ever launched, surpassing the potency of its predecessor, the Falcon 9, the choice of material is crucial to achieving this goal. With its envisioned ability to transport humans to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond, the SpaceX Starship has garnered particular excitement. 

Supposedly, SpaceX aims to establish a reusable transportation system that dramatically reduces costs to a few million dollars per flight. 

Using stainless steel as the primary building material, SpaceX creates a highly durable and cost-effective spacecraft capable of ferrying heavy payloads of up to 150 tons, including astronauts, satellites, and cargo. 


A Carbon SpaceX Starship Would Be More Expensive 

Building a carbon fiber SpaceX Starship would present a daunting financial challenge, potentially hindering the mission to send humans to other planets. 

While commercial carbon fiber is relatively affordable, with prices ranging from $20 to $80 per kilogram, aerospace-grade carbon fiber comes with a significantly higher price tag. 

So, how much does carbon fiber cost?

Elon Musk has revealed that this specialized material can cost up to $135 per kilogram, with a 35% wastage during fabrication. Consequently, SpaceX would have to shell out $200 per kilogram for carbon fiber, significantly driving up the overall construction expenses. 

In contrast, stainless steel is a much more cost-effective alternative, priced at a mere $3 to $4 per kilogram. 

Considering the immense proportions of the SpaceX Starship, with a mass of around 5,000 tons when fully fueled, a diameter of 9 meters, and a towering height of 120 meters, the implications of building a significant portion of it with carbon fiber are staggering. 


Carbon Fiber Would Succumb to Heat During The Launch

Carbon fiber would also be unsuitable for the extreme conditions experienced during space travel due to its inability to withstand the enormous exhaust heat during launch and the frigid temperatures of outer space. So, how much heat can carbon fiber withstand?

Aerospace-grade carbon fiber has a limited steady-state operating temperature of 150°C. Surpassing this threshold would weaken the material. Some carbon fibers can endure up to 200°C, but this comes at the expense of compromising strength. 

In contrast, stainless steel possesses a high melting point, making it a superior choice for space travel. With proper heat dissipation controls, steel can perform at 820-870°C. 

Consequently, a steel-built rocket system is employed for the SpaceX Starship’s heat shield, protecting the spacecraft during launch and reentry into planetary atmospheres. 

Meanwhile, in the freezing conditions of space, where temperatures plummet to -270°C, stainless steel retains its strength. Chrome and nickel in steel’s composition prevent it from becoming brittle, even in extremely low temperatures. 

Despite its rigidity and resistance to yielding, carbon fiber may become brittle and prone to shattering in the harsh environment of outer space.


How Could Carbon Fiber Benefit the SpaceX Starship?

Carbon fiber could offer significant benefits to the SpaceX Starship if utilized. As one of the lightest materials in the world with exceptional strength and durability, carbon fiber has been widely employed in high-performance industries. 

Notably, carbon fiber weight density is only around 2,000 kg per cubic meter, while steel weighs around 7,850 kg. This stark contrast means that components constructed with carbon fiber would weigh at least 3-4 times lighter than steel ones. 

The advantage of a lightweight spacecraft lies in its enhanced fuel efficiency, increased cargo capacity, and ability to accommodate a larger crew size. Furthermore, time is a critical factor in space travel. The faster a spacecraft reaches its destination, the better. 

A lighter carbon fiber SpaceX Starship would enable expedited journeys to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond, significantly improving the chances of mission success and reducing the costs associated with crew survival and spacecraft operation. 


When Will the SpaceX Starship Be Carbon Fiber?

While carbon fiber possesses desirable properties, it’s not currently the chosen material for the SpaceX Starship. However, it may be considered in the future. 

A few decades ago, carbon fiber was a rare material with limited applications. Over time, it has become increasingly prevalent and can now be found in everyday products. 

Of course, even with aerospace-grade carbon fiber, specifically engineered for spacecraft construction, it still needs to catch up to materials like steel, aluminum, and titanium. 

It’s difficult to predict with certainty, but it’s conceivable that Elon Musk, the visionary behind SpaceX, may reconsider carbon fiber for the Starship in the future, especially after the unexpected explosion of the first Starship test flight. 

As technology evolves and advancements are made continuously, the potential for changes in material choices for the SpaceX Starship remains open-ended.


If you have questions about the potential use of carbon fiber on the SpaceX Starship or any details discussed here, contact us and learn more. 

Are you interested in other CARBON FIBER products? Then, visit our store and take a look at our featured collections!

Personal Accessories, Clothing Accessories, Jewelry, Home & Office, Tech, Travel, Gifts, and much more!



  • Apple Rumored to Release a Foldable iPad With Carbon Fiber Kickstand
  • Lamborghini Releases First NFT With a Carbon Fiber ‘Space Key’
  • What is Forged Carbon Fiber? The Ultimate Guide To Forged Composites


    The Carbon Fiber Gear Blog is a lifestyle blog for carbon fiber enthusiasts where we talk about carbon fiber gear, fabrication, and news. In addition, we round up the most fantastic carbon fiber products, the best gift ideas, and the uses of carbon fiber.