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Thursday, Dec 8, 2022

SpaceX to Ramp Up Testing for Mars Rocket in 2021

Coming off a record-breaking year of launches and high-profile missions, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is already gearing up for a busy 2021.

The Hawthorne-based company averaged a launch every two weeks in 2020 and appears ready to maintain that pace in the new year. SpaceX is reportedly aiming to launch a Turkish satellite from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station later this week, and the company is on track to undertake another two launches before the end of January.

Chief Executive Elon Musk has also said the company will ramp up testing of its massive Starship rocket, which it plans to eventually use for lunar and interplanetary missions.

In a tweet on Dec. 24, Musk indicated that the company would “soon” begin assembling prototypes of the rocket on both launch pads at a test site operated by SpaceX in Boca Chica, Texas.

He also noted in a separate tweet that tests would soon begin on the towering Super Heavy rocket booster the company is developing in order to power the Starship out of Earth’s atmosphere.

In a December test, the company launched a Starship prototype miles into the air before attempting to land it back on solid ground. The demonstration ended in a fiery explosion, but Musk said SpaceX had obtained valuable data that would be used to refine future versions of the spacecraft.

The Starship is key to SpaceX’s most ambitious plans, which include sending humans to Mars in the next decade. Musk said in December that SpaceX planned to conduct unmanned missions to the Red Planet as soon as 2022, with crewed voyages possible as soon as 2024.

The company is also working with NASA on the agency’s Artemis program, which aims to land a woman on the moon by 2024.

In the coming year, most SpaceX missions will continue to be conducted with the company’s Falcon 9 launch vehicles. The company made history last year by conducting two crewed missions to the International Space Station using Falcon 9 rockets.

SpaceX will also look to continue the rollout of its Starlink program in the year ahead, an ambitious project aimed at creating a new global broadband network.

The company began beta testing the service in November, and in December received nearly $900 million in subsidies from the Federal Communications Commission for the rollout of broadband service in rural areas.

Musk has touted the project as a potential revenue source, and he recently hinted that the program could be spun off from SpaceX into a publicly traded company.

“It will most likely make sense for Starlink to go public once the revenue growth is reasonably predictable,” he tweeted Dec. 24.


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