What is Elon Musk's SpaceX Starship and when could its test flight launch?

Credit: SpaceX

Elon Musk's SpaceX Starship
SpaceX is looking to land on the moon as early as 2025. Credit: SpaceX

Elon Musk's SpaceX is expected to send the biggest rocket ever built on a test flight next week.

A round-the-world unmanned test flight of Starship was granted by the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday and could blast off as early as Monday.

With the 120-metre tall spacecraft, SpaceX has the long-term ambition of transporting people to the moon and Mars.

The test flight will be the first time Starship has ever blasted into the stratosphere since being fully built.

Early versions of the upper stage rocketed several miles up and crashed four times before landing upright in 2021.

The test flight will not attempt a landing however, as the rocket will be allowed to fall into the sea.

Here is everything you need to know about Starship, SpaceX, and other future rocket launches.

What is Starship?

Starship is billionaire Elon Musk's mammoth spacecraft.

It has 33 main engines and 16.7 million pounds of thrust- enough power to lift as much as 250 tons and accommodate 100 people on a trip to Mars.

Musk is planning on using Starship to launch satellites into low-Earth orbit before strapping anyone in.

Starship could launch its first test flight as early as Monday. Credit: SpaceX

Where will Starship take off?

Starship's launch will take place at the tip of south Texas near Boca Chica Beach.

The launch site is a short distance from where SpaceX has been developing Starship's prototypes - Starbase.

What is the Starship's route?

The test flight is expected to last one and a half hours and will almost complete a full orbit of Earth.

The spacecraft will travel eastward, passing over the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans before returning to Earth near Hawaii.

Future flights are expected to be fully reusable, but nothing will be saved from the test flight.

What are the test's chances of success?

At a Morgan Stanley conference last month, Musk said: “I’m not saying it will get to orbit, but I am guaranteeing excitement. It won’t be boring.

“I think it’s got, I don’t know, hopefully about a 50% chance of reaching orbit.”

That may not seem optimistic, but a fleet of Starships are under construction and Musk estimates an 80% chance that one of them will attain orbit by year’s end.

Will SpaceX land on the moon?

California-based SpaceX has a $3 billion NASA contract to land astronauts on the moon's surface as early as 2025.

It will be the first moon landing by astronauts for more than 50 years.

Starship is not just for NASA, however, as a private crew will be the first to fly Starship, orbiting Earth.

Two private flights to the moon would follow, with no landings, just a fly around.

What other new rockets are on the horizon?

Elon Musk's Starship is not the only rocket on the horizon.

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin is readying the New Glenn rocket for its orbital debut in the next several years.

NASA will use New Glenn to send a pair of spacecraft to Mars in 2024.

Additionally, United Launch Alliance expects its new Vulcan rocket to make its first launch later this year.

In Europe, Arianespace is close to launching its new, upgraded Ariane 6 rocket from French Guiana in South America.

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