Mr. Musk made the remark during a Thursday videoconference appearance at the International Astronautical Congress in Azerbaijan, where he also provided updates on the development of SpaceX’s massive Starship rocket.
Mr. Musk and SpaceX have a long history of impressive spaceflight accomplishments. SpaceX has flown 70 times this year, with each launch including the normal landing and reuse of the booster stages of the current Falcon 9 rockets.
Taking longer than expected to attain his aims is another track record Musk has.
Mr. Musk initially showed his Mars rocket during the 2016 International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, followed by the much more massive Interplanetary Transport System. According to his estimations, SpaceX will make its first unmanned landing on Mars in 2022, while the first manned mission will take place in 2024.
One test flight of Starship was successfully launched in April, but it quickly spun out of control and was destroyed by command few minutes into flight.
Mr. Musk claims a second Starship is complete and ready to go. However, SpaceX is still awaiting a fresh launch licence from the Federal Aviation Administration, which might come as soon as this month.
Mr. Musk detailed some of the developments in Starship’s design on Thursday. Before the second stage separates from the booster on the second flight, its engines will be ignited.
Although Mr. Musk no longer anticipates sending humans to Mars in 2024, he does have other technologically audacious projections for Starship in the works for 2020. SpaceX’s proposal calls for the rocket’s Super Heavy booster to not only return to its launch site, but also hover around the ground until two arms on the launch tower grasp it in midair, allowing for rapid turnaround between flights. The Starship’s upper stage would do the same manoeuvre during its return from orbit.
According to Mr. Musk, there is “a decent chance” of retrieving a rocket from the ground within the next year, and maybe a Starship from orbit by the end of the next year.
Mr. Musk also suggested that SpaceX’s next-generation of Starlink satellites might start going up next year on disposable versions of the Starship stage that are not reused.
The chat between Mr. Mowry and Mr. Musk merely briefly touched on SpaceX’s vital role in Artemis, NASA’s programme to take people back to the moon. During the Artemis III mission, two NASA astronauts will travel in a modified version of Starship from lunar orbit to the south pole area for a landing.
Mr Musk admitted that, but turned to arguing that what SpaceX was creating for NASA would incorporate just minor alterations from a spacecraft built to land on Mars.
The launch of Artemis III is planned for late 2025, but NASA officials have hinted that the launch won’t happen until at least 2026.
A few months ago, NASA’s assistant administrator for exploration systems development, James Free, announced that the space agency had received and was considering an amended timeline for Starship development.
In August, Mr. Free stated, “we may end up flying a different mission” if all the technology parts for a lunar landing weren’t ready. He didn’t specifically name SpaceX.