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Elon Musk SpaceX Starship update coming: What we know

SpaceX founder will speak at remote Texas launch facility Saturday

SpaceX Starship MK1 in Boca Chica, Texas. (Image: Elon Musk/SpaceX)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX founder Elon Musk will give the first update on Starship, his company's interplanetary spaceship, in more than a year, since he announced a Japanese billionaire would be among the spacecraft's first private customers.  

The California-based private space company has been developing the fully reusable spacecraft for human and spacecraft launches to the moon and Mars.    

The 180-foot-tall, 30-foot-wide Starship will launch on a reusable booster called the Super Heavy . Combined the launch duo are powered by 41 Raptor engines. The launch system will stand close to 400 feet tall when stacked and is slated to launch from Kennedy Space Center no earlier than next year.

Musk will be at SpaceX's private site in Boca Chica, Texas on Saturday evening, where the Starship spaceship is being tested and developed.

The remote test site is nestled near a beach community in Brownsville, Texas, along the U.S.-Mexican border. The launch facility also surrounds about 20 residents living within it in a small community called Boca Chica Village. Business Insider reports SpaceX has offered to buy out homeowners for as much as three times the value of their properties.

FILE PHOTO: In this Dec. 6, 2012 file photo is a site near of Brownsville, Texas, called Boca Chica Beach which now hosts a SpaceX launch facility for Starship. (AP Photo/Christopher Sherman, File)

While Texas has seen the first exciting test flights of a prototype known as Starhopper and the development of a Starship prototype called MK1, the spaceship will launch and land on the Space Coast in the coming years.

Few details about Musk's upcoming talk were available, however, in the weeks before the update, the SpaceX CEO shared photos on Twitter of the Starship prototype from Boca Chica, including photos of the three Raptor engines installed.

Three Raptor engines on Starship Mk1 in Boca Chica, Texas. (Image: Elon Musk/SpaceX)
Images of MK 1 construction underway in Texas shared by Elon Musk on Sept. 27, 2019. (Image: Elon Musk/SpaceX)

A day before his update, Musk, who is Starship's lead designer, tweeted a photo of two halves of the spaceship being stacked together Friday evening.

"Starship will allow us to inhabit other worlds," he tweeted, adding "To make life, as we know it, multiplanetary."

Meanwhile, construction work and development for a second Starship prototype, called MK2, are also happening at several sites in Brevard County.

An environmental assessment plan for NASA shows Starship and Super Heavy will launch from Launch Complex 39A.

Ongoing construction happening at Launch Complex 39A on Sept. 27, 2019 where SpaceX plans to launch Starship in the next few years. (Image: WKMG/Sky 6)

To support Starship launches, SpaceX plans to build an additional launch mount for Starship/Super Heavy within the Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, according to a 250-page action plan.

SpaceX also plans to construct a new landing pad at 39A to support Starship landings. Before the new pad is complete, Starship will land at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where SpaceX currently lands its Falcon boosters.

On Friday, WKMG's helicopter Sky 6 flew to Kennedy Space Center, where work on the launch complex was ongoing. Cranes and construction crews could be seen near the launch pad.

About 20 miles away from where the spaceship will launch, another prototype of Starship towers above a construction site in Cocoa. Aerial views of the site Friday showed the prototype construction well underway. The spaceship will eventually stand 180-feet-tall.

Construction on SpaceX Starship MK2 on September 27, 2019 in Cocoa, Fla. (Image: WKMG)

Before Starship can undergo testing or fly, however, the shining spaceship will have to make the journey from Cocoa across two rivers to the launch complex.

[MORE: How SpaceX plans to move Starship from Cocoa site to Kennedy Space Center]

Through a Florida Department of Transportation public records request, WKMG learned that the company contracted by SpaceX to transport Starship to the space center plans to move the spaceship from Cocoa to the launch complex between Oct. 23 and Nov. 4.

The move was originally slated for sometime in September, FDOT records show, but Hurricane Dorian may have caused a delay.

According to the environmental report, SpaceX plans to launch the spaceship about 24 times a year, with the first test flight happening no earlier than next year.

What about commercial crew?

The night before the update on Starship. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine issued a statement reminding SpaceX of its commitment to NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

After the end of the space shuttle program, NASA awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to develop spacecraft to launch American astronauts to the International Space Station. Currently, the U.S. pays Russia to launch its astronauts.

"I am looking forward to the SpaceX announcement tomorrow. In the meantime, Commercial Crew is years behind schedule. NASA expects to see the same level of enthusiasm focused on the investments of the American taxpayer. It's time to deliver," Bridenstine said.

Both companies have faced delays -- SpaceX with Crew Dragon and Boeing with Starliner -- and the first crewed launch may not happen this year.

Check back for live updates Saturday for the SpaceX Starship update. Live coverage will be available at ClickOrlando.com/space.


About the Author:

Emilee Speck

Emilee is a digital journalist for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com, where she writes about space and Central Florida news. Previously, Emilee was a space writer and web editor for the Orlando Sentinel and a producer at the Naples Daily News. Emilee is a Space Coast native and graduate of the University of North Florida journalism program.

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