Elon Musk’s Starship could be on first orbital flight as soon as March

SpaceX's Starship after its return from a flight test.
SpaceX’s Starship after its return from a flight test in Boca Chica, Texas, last May.
(Associated Press)

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said Thursday that the first orbital flight of his company’s towering Starship — the world’s most powerful rocket ever built — could come in another month or two.

Although he anticipates failures, he’s confident Starship will reach orbit by the end of this year.

Musk provided his first major Starship update in more than two years while standing alongside the 390-foot rocket at SpaceX’s Texas spaceport. He urged the nighttime crowd, “Let’s make this real!”


“This is really some wild stuff here,” he said. “In fact, hard to believe it’s real.”

NASA plans to use the fully reusable Starship to land astronauts on the moon as early as 2025. Musk, meanwhile, hopes to use a fleet of Starships to create a city on Mars, hauling equipment and people there.

A pair of dangerously close space encounters are adding to tensions between the U.S. and China, while underscoring the potential peril to astronauts from orbital congestion.

For now, the initial flights would carry Musk’s internet satellites, called Starlinks, into orbit.

“There will probably be a few bumps in the road, but we want to iron those out with satellite missions and test missions” before putting people on board, he said.

SpaceX’s Super Heavy first-stage booster has yet to blast off. But the futuristic, bullet-shaped, steel Starship successfully launched and landed from the southern tip of Texas last May, after a series of spectacular explosions. The rocket ship soared more than six miles.

SpaceX is awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration before proceeding with Starship’s next phase: going into orbit. Musk said he expects the go-ahead in March and added that the rocket should be ready to fly by then as well. That would put the launch in the next couple of months, he added.

If the FAA demands more information about potential environmental impacts or lawsuits emerge, Musk said Starship launches could move to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But that would delay the first orbital launch by more than half a year, he noted.

Starship already has one private customer: a Japanese entrepreneur who has bought a flight around the moon and plans to take a dozen artists with him. Musk hinted there are others interested in buying trips, saying future announcements would be forthcoming.