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Elon Musk shows off massive Mars 'Starship' prototype rocket

The SpaceX CEO shares some surprising details about the materials being used to create his massive new rocket.

SpaceX managed over 20 launches in 2018, but it's also been working on arguably bigger and better plans for the future. In the early morning hours of Christmas Eve Monday, CEO Elon Musk shared a picture of the prototype version of his "Starship" under construction. 

Starship is the new name for the huge rocket previously known as "BFR" that SpaceX plans to use to send people around the moon, to Mars and on super-fast international flights via space.

The photo provides some idea of the scale of the rocket, which SpaceX has said will be bigger and considerably more powerful than the Saturn V rocket that took Apollo astronauts to the moon. The nose cone alone appears to be multiple stories tall, dwarfing the work trucks parked around it. 

Musk tweeted that the massive rocket prototype being built at the SpaceX test facility in Texas has a stainless steel skin. In subsequent comments, he said steel will perform better than lighter weight carbon fiber material at high temperatures like those felt during reentry.

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He also added that the skin "will get too hot for paint" and will instead feature a "stainless mirror finish" for "maximum reflectivity."

Musk has said SpaceX plans to begin testing its Starship design in 2019 with "hopper" flights that will essentially launch the rocket straight up and bring it back down for a landing. The test flights will use three of the company's next generation "Raptor" engines, according to Musk.