The first commercial mission for SpaceX’s Starship and Super Heavy launch system will likely take place in 2021, a company executive said June 26.
Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s vice president of commercial sales, said the company is in talks with prospective customers for the first commercial launch of that system roughly two years from now.
“We are in discussions with three different customers as we speak right now to be that first mission,” Hofeller said at the APSAT conference here. “Those are all telecom companies.”
SpaceX’s Super Heavy booster and Starship upper stage are being designed to launch up to 20 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit, Hofeller said, or more than 100 metric tons to low Earth orbit. Equipped with a nine-meter payload fairing, the launch system is designed to carry crew and resources to the moon and Mars, but is also SpaceX’s next vehicle to send satellites into orbit around the Earth and elsewhere.
Hofeller said SpaceX plans to do several test flights before using the next-generation launch system for satellites. Those test flights — a number he did not quantify — are to demonstrate the launch system for customers and to assuage any concerns by insurers about the reliability of a new vehicle.
SpaceX performed a “hop” with a prototype of Starship in April, propelling the vehicle just centimeters off the ground, Hofeller said. Future tests will reach higher altitudes, he said.
“We have future hops coming up later this year,” he said. “The goal is to get orbital as quickly as possible, potentially even this year, with the full stack operational by the end of next year and then customers in early 2021.”