Musk says Starship will be ready for launch in ‘couple of months’

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the Federal Aviation Administration may grant environmental approval at the company’s south Texas site as soon as next month, paving the way for the launch of Starship this year.

Speaking at an event in Texas, with the 394 feet (120 meters) tall spacecraft that Musk envisions will one day carry people to Mars providing a dramatic backdrop, the world’s richest person said he is “highly confident” Starship will make it to orbit this year.

“We’re tracking to have the regulatory approval and the hardware readiness around the same time,” Musk said. “Basically, a couple of months for both.”

Musk has fallen well short of the goals he outlined at his last formal presentation, in 2019. Starship would have its first orbital test flight within months, he said at the time, and would carry people on a mission within a year. But several test launches to collect data, with no one aboard, ended in flames and it took until last May before Starship was able to take off and settle back near its launchpad without violent incident, after a 6-mile (9.6-kilometer) hop.

The Starship system is designed to carry 100 passengers or 100 metric tons of other payload to low-Earth orbit. Musk said SpaceX, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is eventually aiming for up to three Starship flights a day, without giving a timeframe. Each flight would cost less than $10 million, he said.

SpaceX plans to take thousands of Starlink satellites to orbit for its internet-service constellation and has sold a flight around the moon scheduled for 2023 to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. The company also has contracted with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to take astronauts to the moon.

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Thursday evening’s presentation took place at SpaceX’s launch facility in Boca Chica, adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico and near the border with Mexico. Musk said the FAA may approve the Texas launch site in March.

Musk didn’t provide any firm timelines for missions to the moon and Mars, but made a passionate pitch for the need to colonize other planets.

“To be frank, civilization is looking a little fragile,” he said. “What’s the deep meaning behind this? Why make life multi-planetary? I think this is just an incredibly important thing for the future of life itself.”

“There’s always the chance something could wrong on earth. I’m naturally an optimist, so I think the probability of that is low, but not zero,” he said. “Eventually the sun will expand and destroy all life. So it’s very important, essential, that we become a multi-planetary species.”

Tower arms are lifting Starship onto Super Heavy Booster

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 10, 2022

Still, creating a self-sustaining city on Mars won’t be easy, Musk said.

“The sales pitch for going to Mars is it’s going to be cramped, dangerous and difficult,” he said. “It’s going to be very hard work, and you might die.”

Read: Elon Musk unveils humanoid robot to take over ‘boring’ work

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