NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine visited SpaceX’s California rocket factory Thursday, toured the sprawling facility with founder Elon Musk and told reporters he is optimistic the company will be ready to launch the first piloted test flight of its Crew Dragon spaceship in the first quarter of next year.
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.
SpaceX launched its sub-scale Starship “hopper” spacecraft on a brief unpiloted up-and-down test flight at the company’s Boca Chica, Texas, test facility Tuesday, a dramatic demonstration of rocket technology intended to pave the way to a new, more powerful heavy lift booster and, eventually, crew-carrying interplanetary spacecraft.
Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and chief executive, spoke with reporters via conference call May 15 as the company prepared for the launch of the first 60 satellites to build out a network of potentially thousands of broadband relay stations in low Earth orbit providing high-speed Internet to consumers around the world.