Elon Musk says SpaceX will ‘hopefully’ launch first orbital Starship flight in January

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  • Elon Musk said Wednesday that SpaceX is “hoping” to begin the first orbital flight test of its giant Starship rocket in January, subject to testing and regulatory approvals.
  • The Starship is the giant, next-generation rocket SpaceX is developing to launch cargo and people on missions to the Moon and Mars.
  • The company’s next major step in testing Starship is to launch it into orbit.

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Elon Musk said Wednesday that SpaceX is “hoping” to begin the first orbital flight test of its giant Starship rocket in January, a schedule that depends on testing and regulatory approvals.

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“We will conduct several tests in December and expect to launch in January,” Musk said Wednesday, speaking at a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Space Studies Board.

The Starship is the giant, next-generation rocket SpaceX is developing to launch cargo and people on missions to the Moon and Mars. The company is testing the prototype at a facility in southern Texas and has made several short test flights.

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SpaceX wants Starship to be fully reusable, with both the rocket and its booster capable of landing after launch for future flights. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are partially reusable. The company can regularly land and re-launch boosters but not the upper part or stage of the rocket.

The company’s next big step in developing Starship is to launch into orbit. First, the company needs a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration for the mission, with the regulator expected to complete a critical environmental assessment by the end of this year.

Musk said he was not sure if Starship would successfully reach orbit on its first try, but stressed that he was “convinced” that the rocket would reach space in 2022.

“We intend to have a higher flight rate next year,” Musk said.

Watch: SpaceX unveils plans for orbital flight tests of its Starship rocket

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