File photo of SpaceX founder, CEO and chief engineer Elon Musk. Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani
SpaceX founder Elon Musk detailed progress on the company’s next-generation Starship program Monday, predicting the huge rocket could “probably” attempt its first launch into Earth orbit next year, and adding that the Starship will fly hundreds of missions before SpaceX puts people on-board.
Tapping into an ever-growing production complex in South Texas, SpaceX is building new Starship prototypes at a rate of multiple vehicles per month. Some of the prototypes are strictly for ground testing, but SpaceX’s next Starship testbed, designed SN6, could attempt a 500-foot (150-meter) hop test later this week.
The most recent Starship test craft, named SN5, was the first Starship with full-size propellant tanks to make a successful launch and landing. During SN5’s brief up-and-down test Aug. 4, the prototype flew to an altitude of 500 feet powered by a single methane-fueled Raptor engine, then made a controlled descent to a nearby landing pad.
Speaking by phone Monday during the virtual Humans to Mars Summit, Musk is “making good progress” on the Starship program. He emphasized SpaceX’s work in scaling up production of the Starship test vehicles at the company’s Boca Chica ...