Elon Musk said that the first orbital flight of his huge starship - the most powerful rocket in the world ever built - could take place in a month or two.
Musk unveiled his first major Starship upgrade in over two years, standing next to a 390-foot rocket at the SpaceX launch site in Texas. He urged the night crowd: "Let's make it real!"
"There's something really wild here," he said. "Actually, it's hard to believe it's real."
NASA plans to use a fully reusable starship to land astronauts on the moon as early as 2025. Meanwhile, Musk hopes to deploy a fleet of starships to create a city on Mars, transporting equipment and people there.
"There will probably be some bumps in the road, but we want to smooth them out with satellite missions and test missions" before taking people on board, he said.
SpaceX's Super Heavy first-stage launch vehicle has yet to take off. But a futuristic steel bullet-shaped starship that sits atop and serves as a booster successfully lifted off and landed on its own last May after a series of spectacular explosions. The rocket flew over 6 miles.
SpaceX is awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration before moving on to Starship's next phase: into orbit. Musk said he expects approval in March and that the rocket should be ready to fly by then. This means that the launch will take place in the next couple of months, he added.
If the FAA requires more information about the potential environmental impact or legal action arises, Musk said Starship launches could be moved to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But this will delay the first orbital launch by more than half a year, he noted.
Full-size spacecraft are huge - taller than NASA's past and current lunar rockets, and have about twice the launch thrust.
Apart from Cape Canaveral in Florida and the southern tip of Texas near Boca Chica, Starships could eventually launch from floating ocean platforms anywhere in the world, Musk said. He envisions spacecraft launching three times a day — "rapid reuse" — with refueling stations in space for more distant destinations like Mars. According to him, the first refueling test could take place by the end of next year.
Musk estimates that a Starship launch could cost less than $10 million—maybe even just a few million dollars with high speed flight, which would drive prices down. He called it "insanely low" and "ridiculously good" by today's space standards.