CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) – SpaceX founder Elon Musk said Wednesday that his company will attempt to launch the future bullet-shaped spacecraft into orbit in January, but he’s not betting on success on that first test flight.
“There are a lot of risks associated with this first launch, so I wouldn’t say it’s likely to be successful, but we will make a lot of progress,” he said during a virtual meeting organized by the National Academy of Sciences.
Musk said he’s confident the Starship — which will debut on top of a massive booster — will successfully reach orbit sometime in 2022. After a dozen or so orbital test flights next year, SpaceX will then begin launching valuable satellites and other payloads to orbit on Stars ships in 2023, he said.
NASA has contracted SpaceX to use the Starship to deliver astronauts to the lunar surface as early as 2025. Musk plans to use reusable ships to eventually land people on Mars.
The shiny stainless-steel Starship rocket and its first stage vehicle – called the Super Heavy – will be the largest rocket ever to fly, standing at 394 feet (120 metres). Musk noted that the lift-off thrust will be more than twice the power of NASA’s Saturn 5 rockets that carried astronauts to the moon half a century ago.
Super Heavy hasn’t shaved yet. But the full-scale spacecraft prototype in May flew more than 6 miles (10 kilometers) before successfully landing at the SpaceX complex near southernmost Texas.
The Starship and Super Heavy have completed their first orbital test flight, according to Musk. By the end of November, the company hopes to complete the launch pad and turret, with testing scheduled for December. Musk noted that the FAA should have a review by the end of the year, leading to a launch in January or February at the latest.
So far, SpaceX has covered about 90% of the Starship’s development costs, according to Musk, with NASA covering the rest through the lunar lander contract. He did not say how much has been spent so far.
Musk plans to build several spaceships in the near term. He envisions needing 1,000 of them to make life truly multi-planetary, which is his ultimate goal.
He said something natural or man-made will eventually lead to the end of civilization — a pandemic worse than COVID-19, constantly lowering birth rates, nuclear Armageddon or perhaps a direct hit by a deadly comet. He noted that moving people to Mars and elsewhere as quickly as possible was necessary to “maintain the light of consciousness.”
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