SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk says the first orbital flight of Starship — the most powerful rocket ever built — could take a month or two.
Although he foresees failures, he said he was confident that Starship will reach orbit by the end of this year.
Musk delivered his first update on Starship in more than two years Tuesday night next to the 119-meter (390-foot) rocket at SpaceX’s spaceport in Texas. He told the crowd, “Let’s make it happen!”
“It’s really an impressive thing,” he said. “In fact, it’s hard to believe it’s real.”
NASA plans to use the fully reusable Starship to land astronauts on the moon probably by 2025. Musk, meanwhile, hopes to deploy a flotilla of Starships to create a city on Mars, transporting equipment and people to the planet.
For now, the initial flights will carry Usk’s internet satellites, called Starlink, into orbit.
“There will probably be bumps along the way, but we want to work those out with satellite and test missions” before putting people on board, he said.
SpaceX’s SuperHeavy booster has yet to take off. But the Starship — perched on top and serving as the next stage — was successfully launched and landed on her own in May, after a series of spectacular explosions. The rocket rose more than 10 kilometers (6 miles).
SpaceX awaits approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration before proceeding with the next phase of Starship: flying to orbit. Musk says that he expects the green light in March and that the rocket should be ready to fly then. That would put the launch in the next two months, he said.
If the FAA wants more information about potential environmental impacts or if lawsuits arise, Musk said Starship launches could take place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But that would delay the first launch to orbit by more than half a year, he said.