"If everything works, we want to go to Earth orbit at the end of the year."
Despite a massive explosion that obliterated the fourth prototype of its Starship spacecraft, SpaceX is still planning on an orbital test launch of the vehicle before the end of the year.
Starship — a different project than SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which successfully launched with two astronauts on board over the weekend — is meant to eventually ferry up to 100 passengers as far as the Moon, and even Mars.
“I expect first test flights, let’s say, to a height of 150 meters, in the coming weeks,” Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s VP of Build and Flight Reliability, told German magazine Der Spiegel in a Tuesday interview. “We’re going to be doing that a couple of times.”
“If everything works, we want to go into Earth orbit at the end of the year,” Koenigsmann added. “It might take a little longer.”
The news comes after Starship’s fourth prototype, SN4, exploded last Friday at the company’s testing site in Boca Chica, Texas.
“Unfortunately what we thought was going to be a minor test of a quick disconnect ended up being a big problem,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told the press.
It’s a setback, but SN4 endured far more trials than its predecessors. It’s also the first Starship prototype to endure a cryogenic pressure test, which caused older prototypes to crumple like tin cans.
A scaled-down Starship prototype, called “Starhopper,” has also already completed a test flight to 150 meters last summer.
READ MORE: SpaceX’s orbital Starship launch debut could still happen this year [Teslarati]
More on Starship: BREAKING: SPACEX’S STARSHIP PROTOTYPE BLOWS UP IN HUGE FIREBALL