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Elon Musk shows progress of the Starship prototype




SpaceX's prototype Starship spacecraft company plans to use for manned trips to the Moon and Mars are nearing completion.

Billionaire's founder Elon Musk tweeted a couple of photos this week seemingly showing progress on one of the Starship prototypes SpaceX is currently developing.

SpaceX has stated that it plans to use the rockets to fire passengers and cargo across the planet or beyond it.

"Droid Junkyard, Tatooine," Musk wrote in the first tweet, making a joking "Star Wars" reference.

"Area 51[ads1] of Area 51," he joked in the other.

Starships are designed to be a reusable craft that will transport people across the globe at record speed, bringing goods and passengers as far as the Moon and Mars. They will be powered by several of the company's Raptor engines, which underwent a successful test with the Starhopper test vehicle late last month. One of the engines lifted the vehicle about 500 feet, and then landed it on a nearby landing plate.

The company is working on an aggressive timeline. It aims to reach Mars by 2022 and bring a crew two years later. SpaceX is also currently scheduled to start carrying passengers as soon as 2023, with Japanese billionaire Yusaka Maezawa booked on a trip to the Moon then.

But outside observers should take that plan with a grain of salt, according to Laura Forczyk, the founder of space consultancy Astralytica. However, she added that the fact that SpaceX has actually tested hardware adds credibility to their plans – though they may not be completed as quickly as anyone had hoped.

"I see it happening eventually," she said.

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SpaceX started working on reusable rockets at a time when others thought it would never be economically feasible. To successfully use the Starship rockets as SpaceX has planned would be "a game changer," according to Forczyk.

"It will be something the space community has never seen before," she said.

Keeping ambitions like that timeline has helped SpaceX succeed so far, Forczyk said. So is Musk's decision to finance the company itself and with public contracts.

Musk's showmanship – which when SpaceX launched a Tesla Roadster against the sun – has also helped draw the company's top talent, according to Forczyk.

FILE – In this file photo August 27, 2017, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk congratulates teams competing at the Hyperloop Pod Competition II on SpaceX's Hyperloop runway in Hawthorne, California. A Los Angeles City Council Committee Wednesday, April 18, 2018, (AP)

"It's that kind of style and pizazz … we haven't seen coming from other airlines," she said.

SpaceX has also taken an unusual approach to getting employees to perform by beating them against each other in a friendly competition, with one team in Texas and another in Florida each responsible for building their own Starship prototype, with the two teams who fight to beat each other while also sharing information.

"It seems to have worked well," Forczyk said.

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Musk has said that the company is aiming for a 20-kilometer flight test next October, and they will try to get back on track after that, and is scheduled to provide an official update on September 28.



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