Featured Image Credit: Elon Musk/Instagram/SpaceX
Elon Musk has said that SpaceX's mammoth Starship rocket could be ready for orbital flight within 'a couple months.'
In the first formal update on Starship's development in more than two years, Musk said that the rocket was close to meeting SpaceX's own technical readiness to fly, but was waiting on Federal Aviation Administration approval and the completion of environmental checks.
'I think we're tracking to have the regulatory approval and hardware readiness around the same time. Hopefully, you know, basically a couple months for both,' Musk said.
An inaugural test flight would see the Starship prototype launch into space for a 90 minute orbit that will take it once around the earth, before splashing back down in waters off the coast of Hawaii.
At around 120m high the Starship rocket system is the largest ever created, and set to be considerably more powerful.
Musk envisions the rocket as being the vehicle to return humans to the moon and eventually put them on Mars, with NASA having already contracted SpaceX to provide the rocket for crewed lunar landings later this decade.
Built around SpaceX's new 'Super Heavy' boosters, Starship is expected to launch with more than twice the thrust of the Apollo Saturn V rockets that put man on the moon for the first time, per the BBC.
'Once we make this work, it's an utterly profound breakthrough in access to orbit,' Musk said.
SpaceX's ultimate ambition is to make its rocket fully reusable, with the boosters and payload vehicles performing controlled landings on platforms either at SpaceX's Boca Chica, Texas headquarters or at sea, similarly to its existing Falcon Heavy rockets.
Musk was speaking from the Boca Chica facility, where SpaceX hopes to conduct its first launch, however should the site fail its environmental impact assessments, the site would likely move to the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, where current SpaceX launches are held.
Starship has undergone a number of sub-orbital test launches over the past year from the Boca Chica facility.
During his presentation Musk also teased the potential for future business opportunities using Starship, saying, 'there's going to be some future announcements that I think people will be pretty fired up about. There are a lot of additional customers that will want to use Starship... I don't want to steal their thunder; they're going to make their own announcements.'
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