CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX’s Elon Musk said Thursday the first orbital flight of his towering Starship — the world’s most powerful rocket ever built — could take place in a month or two.
Although he anticipates failures, he is confident that Starship will reach orbit by the end of this year.
Musk provided his first major Starship update in more than two years as he stood next to the 390ft rocket at SpaceX’s spaceport in Texas. He urged the nighttime crowd, “Let’s make it real!”
“It’s really wild stuff here,” he said. “In fact, hard to believe it’s real.”
NASA plans to use the fully reusable spacecraft to land astronauts on the moon as soon as 2025. Musk, meanwhile, hopes to deploy a fleet of spacecraft to create a city on Mars, ferrying equipment and people there. low.
For now, the initial flights would carry Musk’s internet satellites, called Starlinks, into orbit.
“There will probably be some bumps in the road, but we want to smooth them out with satellite missions and test missions” before we get people on board, he said.
SpaceX’s Super Heavy first-stage booster hasn’t lifted off yet. But the futuristic steel bullet-shaped vessel – perched on top and serving as an upper stage – managed to launch and land on its own last May, following a series of spectacular explosions. The rocket climbed over 6 miles.
SpaceX is awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration before moving on to Starship’s next phase: launching into orbit. Musk said he expects the go-ahead in March and the rocket should also be ready to fly by then. That would put the launch within the next two months, he added.
If the FAA requests more information about potential environmental impacts or if legal action emerges, Musk said Starship launches could move to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But that would delay the first orbital launch by more than six months, he noted.
The full-size craft are massive – taller than NASA’s past and present moon rockets, with about double the liftoff thrust.
Besides Cape Canaveral in Florida and the southern tip of Texas near Boca Chica, spacecraft could eventually launch from floating ocean platforms anywhere in the world, Musk said. He envisions spacecraft launches three times a day — “rapid reusability” — with in-space refill stations for longer destinations like Mars. The first filling test could take place by the end of next year, he said.
Musk estimates a Starship launch could cost less than $10 million — maybe even a few million dollars with a high rate of theft, driving prices down. He called it “crazy low” and “ridiculously good” by today’s space standards.
Starship already has a private client: a Japanese entrepreneur who bought a flight around the moon and plans to take a dozen artists with him. Musk hinted that there were others interested in buying trips, saying future announcements would be forthcoming.
Until now, SpaceX has relied on its much smaller Falcon rockets to launch satellites, as well as astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station for NASA. His first private flight, bought by a billionaire, dates back to last September. Another arrives at the end of March, this one to the space station with three businessmen who pay 55 million dollars each.