The SN15 prototype spacecraft rocket is on the company’s launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX “shoots for July” to launch the first orbital space flight of its Starship rocket, said company president Gwynne Shotwell on Friday.
“I hope we can make it, but we all know it’s difficult,” Shotwell said at the National Space Society’s virtual international space development conference.
“We are really close to flying this system, or at least attempting the first orbital flight of this system in the near future,” added Shotwell.
SpaceX conducted several short test flights of Starship prototypes over the past year, but reaching orbit is the next step in testing the rocket. The company announced its plan in May for the flight, which is scheduled to depart from the company’s Texas facility and land off the coast of Hawaii.
Spaceship prototypes are about 160 feet tall, or about the size of a 16-story building, and made of stainless steel – they represent the early version of the rocket that Musk unveiled in 2019. The rocket initially launches on a “Super Heavy” booster, which makes up the bottom half of the rocket and is about 230 feet high. Together, Starship and Super Heavy will be nearly 400 feet tall when stacked for launch.
The company is developing Starship to launch cargo and humans on missions to the moon and Mars.
While SpaceX’s fleet of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets are partially reusable, Musk’s goal is to make Starship fully reusable – a rocket more like an airliner, with short turnaround times between flights where the only major cost is fuel are.
“I don’t think people really understood what this system is going to do,” Shotwell said.
She stressed that Musk is “in a hurry” to develop Starship and “create a sustainable ability that will bring people to the moon and Mars”.
“That means it’s not a ship every two years, does it? We need to be able to fly dozens of ships in the amount of time you can get people to Mars,” Shotwell added.
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