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Elon Musk wants to send a Starship to orbit as soon as July

The "full stack" of a Super Heavy booster and Starship could debut in just a few months.

Starship prototype SN9 awaits launch in Texas.

SpaceX is targeting July to take its next big step on the path toward Mars. That's when Elon Musk says he hopes to launch a Starship prototype that includes the "full stack" of the main spacecraft riding atop the company's new Super Heavy rocket booster.

Stripped-down Starship prototypes with three Raptor engines have made a series of three high-altitude flights over the past four months. All these flights have ended in dramatic explosions and none have yet taken a Starship beyond Earth's atmosphere.

A full-stack flight would likely be the first attempt at sending a Starship prototype to orbit. On Tuesday, Musk confirmed a timeline, first reported by NASASpaceflight.com, that has SpaceX targeting a first full-stack flight by July.

Musk, of course, is notorious for failing to meet his reliably ambitious timelines, but SpaceX has big plans for Starship in the near future. The company has talked up the possibility of landing an uncrewed Starship on the moon as soon as next year, with an initial trip to Mars coming perhaps just a few years later.

All this is contingent on quite a few things going right and all on schedule, however. SpaceX will have to complete a testing campaign on the ground for Super Heavy in the coming months and try out some design tweaks to Starship that are in the works now.

It would also be ideal to perfect the landing for Starship, even if the fireworks at the end of its early test flights have been quite a striking sight.

SpaceX SN8 flew high and landed hard.

SpaceX/CNET video capture by Jackson Ryan

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