Elon Musk: Starship rocket close to going orbital

Elon Musk is hopeful he can launch his new monster rocket system in maybe a couple of months.

In a presentation made while standing in front of what he calls the Starship, the US entrepreneur said the vehicle was close technically to being ready.

Much depends now on the Federal Aviation Administration. It’s the licensing authority and it will not issue a permission to fly until an environmental assessment is complete.

This should report back by March.

“I think we’re tracking to have the regulatory approval and hardware readiness around the same time,” he told the audience at his SpaceX company’s R&D facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

“Hopefully, you know, basically a couple months for both.”

Mr Musk said that if the FAA process demanded further investigations, it would lead to a delay of many months as flight operations were shifted to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where another launch pad for Starship is under construction.

Thursday’s presentation was the first formal update Mr Musk had given on the progress of Starship’s development in two years.

And while the level of activity at Boca Chica in the intervening time has been intense, Mr Musk didn’t reveal much that wasn’t already public knowledge.

He discussed niche engineering details on rocket engine design, which will have delighted super-fans, and there was a glossy new animation that envisaged a crewed Starship mission to Mars, but the SpaceX CEO was shy about talking through the business opportunities that were emerging for the new launch system.