Elon Musk claimed on Thursday that the maiden orbital flight of his giant and the world’s most powerful rocket, Starship, may happen in a month or two.
While he expects setbacks, he believes Starship will reach orbit by the end of the year. While standing alongside the 390-foot (119-meter) rocket at SpaceX’s Texas spaceport, Musk offered his first big Starship update in more than two years.
“Let’s make this real!” he said. “This is some wild stuff here,” he remarked.
“In fact, hard to believe it’s real.” NASA plans to use the fully reusable Starship to land astronauts on the moon as early as 2025. Musk, meanwhile, hopes to deploy a fleet of Starships to create a city on Mars, hauling equipment and people there.
“There will probably be a few bumps in the road, but we want to iron those out with satellite missions and test missions” before putting people on board, he said.
The first-stage booster for SpaceX’s Super Heavy rocket has yet to launch. But, amid a sequence of spectacular explosions, the futuristic, bullet-shaped, steel Starship successfully launched and landed on its own last May. The rocket ship flew for more than 6 miles (10 kilometers).
SpaceX is seeking authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration before proceeding with the next stage of Starship’s development: entering space. Musk stated that he anticipates the approval in March and that the rocket would be ready to launch by then. He noted that the launch would take place within the next several months.
If the FAA requests additional information regarding possible environmental concerns, Musk has stated that Starship launches may be relocated to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. However, he cautioned that this would cause the first orbital launch to be delayed by more than a year.
The full-size Starships have nearly double the liftoff force of NASA’s previous and present moon rockets. In addition to Florida’s Cape Canaveral and Texas’s Boca Chica, Musk suggested that starships may someday launch from floating ocean platforms anywhere on the planet.
He also expects Starships to launch three times a day — “rapid reusability” — with replenishment stations in orbit for longer-distance destinations like Mars. The first replenishment test, he claims, might happen before the end of next year.
Musk estimates a Starship launch could wind up costing less than $10 million — maybe even just a few million dollars with a high flight rate, which would bring down prices. He called it “crazy low” and “ridiculously good” by current space standards.
Starship already has one private customer: a Japanese entrepreneur who has purchased a trip around the moon and intends to bring a dozen artists with him. Musk intimated that others are interested in buying trips, stating that further announcements would be made soon.
SpaceX had previously depended on its much smaller Falcon rockets to carry satellites, astronauts, and supplies to the International Space Station for NASA. Its first private flight, purchased by a millionaire, took place in September of last year. Another trip to the space station is scheduled by the end of March, with three businessmen each paying $55 million.