No stranger to setting ambitious, if not unrealistic development goals, SpaceX founder and CEO, Elon Musk has vowed to have a Starship prototype in orbit in as little as six months.
Musk announced the ambitious goal during the long-awaited Starship update at the company’s South Texas site on September 28. Backdropped by the Mark 1 Starship prototype and a Falcon 1, the now-retired small launch vehicle that started it all, Musk addressed media, employees and other guests.
Much of the new information shared during the announcement revolved around the development timetable of the Starship vehicle. On the road to the first orbital flight, Musk explained that the company would begin with high-altitude suborbital flights of the Mark 1 prototype. “This thing is going to take off, fly to 65,000 feet, about 20 kilometers, and come back and land, in about one or two months,” he said.
Following the high-altitude test, Musk revealed that the company would push forward quickly hoping to reach orbit with a new Mark 3 prototype within six months. However, during a question and answers segment of the announcement, Musk seemed to contradict this stating that orbital flights would be done with a Mark 4 or Mark 5 prototype.
In addition to the Mark 1 prototype nearing completion at Boca Chica, a Mark 2 prototype is currently being constructed at the company’s Cocoa facility in Florida. Although Musk revealed that the Mark 2 prototype would be completed within a couple of months, he did not clarify what purpose this second early prototype would serve in the development of the Starship vehicle.
As ambitious as Musk’s six-month goal of reaching orbit is, he followed that bold claim with another stating that SpaceX could be flying crewed Starship flights as soon as next year. This kind of timeline seems remarkably fast considering SpaceX is yet to fly crews aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which has been under development for several years.