Standing in front of a shiny full-scale prototype of SpaceX’s Starship vehicle in South Texas, Elon Musk said Saturday night he wants the company’s gigantic next-generation rocket to fly into orbit within six months, a bold schedule that he acknowledged requires “exponential” improvements in design and manufacturing.
In the last few months, teams of SpaceX engineers working on the flat coastal plains of South Texas and in a nondescript industrial yard on Florida’s Space Coast have been building two futuristic-looking stainless steel rockets — or Starships — prototypes for a reusable vehicle the company claims could one day ferry people to Mars.
A Soyuz rocket carrying a Russian commander, a NASA co-pilot and a United Arab Emirates guest cosmonaut blasted off from Kazakhstan Wednesday, chased down the International Space Station and glided in for a picture-perfect docking, kicking off an unprecedented end-of-year schedule that includes up to a dozen spacewalks.
A Soyuz rocket with a three-person crew heading for the International Space Station lifted off at 1357 GMT (9:57 a.m. EDT) Wednesday in the final launch currently scheduled from Gagarin’s Start, a historic site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan from where Yuri Gagarin departed on the first human spaceflight in 1961. Beginning next year, Soyuz crews will blast off from a different pad at Baikonur.