SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk shares a photo of its Starship test flight rocket. The glorious rocket may one day carry people to the Moon and Mars.
Musk tweeted an image on Thursday night of the completed Starship test-flight rocket from a SpaceX facility in south Texas.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 11, 2019
Engineers built the retro-looking, steely rocket in Boca Chica along the Gulf Coast of Texas. It is nine yards (eight meters) in diameter – just like the future rocket will be – but is shorter.
A person or mannequin in a spacesuit stands nearby to give us a sense of scale. Starship is a glorious giant.
Musk dropped a few more details about the prototype: “This is for suborbital VTOL tests. Orbital version is taller, has thicker skins (won’t wrinkle) & a smoothly curving nose section.” VTOL stands for “vertical take-off and landing.” Musk says the body diameter of Starship is about 30 feet (9 meters).
However, the test rocket won’t be flying through space. Instead, engineers will use it for suborbital test flights. Its first test flights could come in March or April.
An orbital prototype is expected in June. That version will be paired with a massive rocket booster known as the Super Heavy.
SpaceX has said the duo could one day transport people from city to city on Earth. In terms of space travel, SpaceX plans to use the rocket for crewed missions to the Moon in 2023 and Mars in 2024.
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SpaceX currently launches regular supply missions to the astronauts living at the International Space Station, using its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo capsule.
The company is working on a new Dragon crew capsule that could start carrying people to the orbiting outpost later this year.
But for now, the company needs to get through these first tests. So, let’s see how the suborbital version does first.
Thumbnail image: Elon Musk tweeted this image of SpaceX’s new Starship rocket.