Elon Musk said Wednesday that the Starship developed by his company SpaceX and selected by NASA for the Americans’ return to the Moon would attempt its first orbital flight early next year.
“We’ll do a bunch of tests in December and hopefully launch in January,” Musk said in a talk for the National Academies Space Studies Board.
“There’s a lot of risk associated with this first launch,” he said. “So I would not say that it is likely to be successful, but I think we will make a lot of progress.”
Starship has already made several sub-orbital flights. After multiple tests that ended in impressive explosions, SpaceX finally succeeded in landing the spacecraft, which is designed to be reusable.
For the upcoming orbital test, it will be decked out with an ultra-powerful first stage dubbed Super Heavy.
Authorization from the US Federal Aviation Administration is expected “around the end of the year,” Musk said.
The billionaire entrepreneur — who also founded electric carmaker Tesla — said he hoped to have completed the launch pad and launch tower this month, before carrying out a series of checks.
After the proposed January test launch, he aims for a dozen additional launches or more through the end of 2022.
He said Starship would be operational to transport loads outside the framework of tests “in 2023