What's next for Elon Musk's SpaceX Starship

The mighty, would-be Mars rocket has made two low-altitude flights, and America's rocket man says he has much more to show us soon.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects. CNET's "Living off the Grid" series. https://www.cnet.com/feature/home/energy-and-utilities/living-off-the-grid/ Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack
2 min read
Elon Musk/SpaceX

It's been nearly three years since Elon Musk stood on a stage in Mexico and told us he had a plan to take us to Mars. Now the SpaceX CEO has proven his Mars rocket can fly (or at least hover a little bit), and he's ready to update his master vision before the month is out. 

Back in 2016 at the International Aeronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Musk shared his dream of a human presence on Mars, one million people strong. How such a huge Martian city gets built still isn't very clear, but SpaceX has made it its mission (literally) to provide the transportation in the form of a massive new rocket and spacecraft.

After trying on a few names, including Big Falcon Rocket, Big F@#$ing Rocket and just BFR, Musk appears to have settled on calling the big rocket Super Heavy and the spacecraft that it pairs with Starship. 

Elon Musk Shows Off the Shiny SpaceX Starship

See all photos

The most recent specs for Super Heavy and Starship would make it the most powerful launch system ever, outdoing even the mighty Saturn V rocket that carried Apollo astronauts and their lunar buggies to the moon. 

Now that SpaceX has completed two successful very low altitude flights, or "hops," of its single-engine Starship prototype, dubbed Starhopper, Musk says he's ready to give an update on those specs and on the future of Starship. 

"Starship update will be on Sept 28th, anniversary of SpaceX reaching orbit," the CEO tweeted after the Starhopper successfully flew to a height of about 490 feet (149 meters) and touched back down at the company's Boca Chica, Texas test site on Aug. 27.

Then, in October, SpaceX hopes to launch a more advanced Starship prototype to an altitude of 20 km (12 miles), which is roughly one-fourth to one-fifth of the way to space. This next test will be followed by an attempt at reaching orbit "shortly thereafter."

Musk has said his company is actually building a pair of orbital Starship prototypes with at least three Raptor engines each. The duo's names are Mk1 and Mk2, with one being constructed at Boca Chica, and the other at SpaceX facilities in Florida, respectively.

Watch this: SpaceX aces Starhopper rocket test

Musk expects Mk1 to "be fully assembled" by the time he takes the stage Sept. 28 to share all the rest of the details of what's next for Starship.

During previous Starship-related events, Musk has shared not only his vision for a Martian city but also a plan to launch a group of artists around the moon in just a few years and the possibility of using Starship for super-quick international flights via space. 

There's really no telling what Musk's next big idea for his biggest rocket yet will be, but it's pretty sure to be out of this world, or at least come with a dose of Musk's patented otherworldly flair.

Every Elon Musk project right now

See all photos