Elon Musk says prototype Starship will fly in a matter of months

Elon Musk has given an update on SpaceX’s ambitious Starship spacecraft and booster, stating that it could be possible to launch a crewed mission as early as next year. The CEO gave insights into the production timeline and characteristics of the company’s ambitious next-generation hardware, with which SpaceX hopes to take astronauts back to the Moon and eventually on to the surface of Mars.

The long-awaited press conference was held in Boca Chica near Brownsville, Texas on September 28 – a day which marked the 11th anniversary of SpaceX’s first successful trip to orbit in 2008, with the fourth launch of its Falcon 1 rocket.

The contents of the SpaceX CEO’s presentations are well-known for being aspirational in nature. However, this time his words were given extra weight by the sci-fi apparition looming behind him – the towering silver profile of the Mk 1 Starship.

Furthermore, many questions remain regarding safety aspects. Granted, at this point the emphasis seems to be on getting the hardware flying, but little has been said regarding life-support systems beyond the fact that they will be regenerative – recycling water, oxygen and other vital resources in much the same way as the International Space Station.

It will also be interesting to see how SpaceX intends to approach its design for a launch abort system (LAS). Traditional abort systems take the form of rocket towers that sit atop a command capsule, and are capable of quickly pulling the crew away from the launch vehicle in the event of a failure either on the pad or during ascent.

This approach doesn’t seem viable given the Starship’s current design, which integrates the crew section with fuel tanks.