Elon Musk announced on Wednesday that the Starship, developed by his company SpaceX and chosen by NASA for the United States’ return to the Moon, will attempt its first orbital flight early next year.
“We’ll do a bunch of tests in December and hopefully launch in January,” Musk said at a National Academies Space Studies Board meeting.
“There’s a lot of risk in this first launch,” he said. “So I wouldn’t say it’s likely to succeed, but I believe we’ll make significant progress.”
Starship has already completed a number of sub-orbital flights. SpaceX finally succeeded in landing the spacecraft, which is designed to be reusable, after multiple tests that ended in spectacular explosions.
It will be outfitted with an ultra-powerful first stage dubbed Super Heavy for the upcoming orbital test.
The US Federal Aviation Administration’s approval is expected “around the end of the year,” according to Musk.
The billionaire entrepreneur, who also founded Tesla, said he hoped to finish the launch pad and launch tower this month before conducting a series of tests.
Following the proposed January test launch, he plans a dozen or more additional launches through the end of 2022.
He stated that Starship would be operational to transport loads outside of the testing framework “in 2023.”
NASA expects Starship to be the lander used as part of its Artemis program to return humans to the Moon by 2025 at the earliest.
But SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has even bigger plans for the “largest rocket ever designed.”
“What we hope to achieve with starship is a generalized means of transporting large amounts of mass or people… anywhere in the solar system,” he explained.
The founder of SpaceX hammered home his ambitious vision in an hour-long speech broadcast live on YouTube: “In order for life to become multi-planetary, we’ll need maybe 1,000 ships.”
SpaceX’s overarching goal “has been to advance space technology so that humanity can become a multi-planetary species and, eventually, a spacefaring civilization,” he said.
“Long term, it’s critical for preserving the light of consciousness,” he says, because something bad will happen to Earth, whether natural or man-made, that will bring civilization to an end.