NASA might still be waiting for its first real test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft — which was recently pushed back into February for unspecified reasons — but that’s not the only spacecraft SpaceX has been working on. Starship, the forward-looking concept thought to be the future of the company’s space exploration ambitions, has appeared in brief teases as it slowly inches its way towards testing.
Now, SpaceX boss Elon Musk has taken to Twitter to show off the very first fully assembled Starship, and it sure does look like it comes from the future.
“Starship test flight rocket just finished assembly at the SpaceX Texas launch site,” Musk wrote in a tweet. “This is an actual picture, not a rendering.”
We most recently saw the Starship in more than one piece, apparently in the midst of being assembled. Musk and SpaceX have remained quiet on their immediate plans for Starship testing, but suborbital “hops” are expected to take place sooner rather than later.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 11, 2019
In a followup Tweet, Musk clarified that this isn’t what the orbital version of the ship will look like due to a different exterior skin. “This is for suborbital VTOL tests,” Musk said. “Orbital version is taller, has thicker skins (won’t wrinkle) & a smoothly curving nose section.”
Originally called the BFR — which stood for either “Big Falcon Rocket” or “Big F*cking Rocket,” depending on what version of Musk’s naming scheme you preferred — Musk announced he was officially changing the name to “Starship” not long ago. At the time, he stated that he chose the name because “later versions” of the vehicle will eventually embark on trips between stars.
This latest glimpse of the Starship is indeed awe-inspiring, especially with the tiny would-be human passenger standing in front of it for scale. It’s a massive ship that certainly looks like it would be capable of ferrying space travelers to Mars and potentially beyond, but the company still have a lot to prove before that can happen.