Elon Musk tweeted that the orbital versions of the Starship (one in Texas and one in Florida) are aiming for 20km flight in Oct and an orbit attempt shortly thereafter. Elon Musk will give the starship update on Sept 28th. This is the anniversary of SpaceX reaching orbit. Starship Mk 1 will be fully assembled by September 28, 2019.
Aiming for 20km flight in Oct & orbit attempt shortly thereafter. Starship update will be on Sept 28th, anniversary of SpaceX reaching orbit. Starship Mk 1 will be fully assembled by that time.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 28, 2019
The orbital starship completion date would only be three months behind are target that Elon Musk had hoped to achieve in January, 2019. An orbital launch of Starship in 2019 would achieve the aspirational goal that Elon had in January.
The SpaceX switch to stainless steel construction has enabled the rapid construction and testing of these rockets.
Development of the SpaceX Falcon 9 was announced in 2005 and it flew for its first commercial flight in 2010.
Other rocket makers like Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance are taking ten to twenty years to go from the start of rocket design to orbital test flights.
Elon Musk had targeted the Super Heavy Starship to reach orbit by 2020. In January, Elon had said the odds of making it to orbit by 2020 are at least 60% and rising rapidly.
Starship is the upper stage of what was called the BFR (Big F** Rocket). It is a 9-meter (30 ft)-diameter, 55-meter (180 ft)-tall, fully reusable spacecraft design. It will have a with a dry mass of 85,000 kg (187,393 lb) and will use six methane/oxygen-propellant Raptor engines. There have been discussion of designs that use seven or eight engines for point to point travel on Earth in under one hour flight time.
Total Starship thrust will be about 11,500 kN; 2,600,000 lbf (1,170 tf).
The 20-kilometer flight would involve three Raptor engines.
Starship is the second stage for the BFR launch vehicle that provides acceleration to orbital velocity on all launches from Earth, and yet will also be used in space as an on-orbit long-duration spacecraft.
The Starship design is intended to be fully reusable even when used as a second stage for orbital ascent from Earth.
In May 2019 it was announced that Starship will use three sea-level optimized Raptor engines and three vacuum-optimized Raptor engines.
The plan is for at least three operational versions:
Spaceship: a large, long-duration spacecraft capable of carrying passengers or cargo to interplanetary destinations, to LEO, or between destinations on Earth.
Satellite delivery spacecraft: a vehicle able to transport and place spacecraft into orbit and for in-space recovery of spacecraft and space debris for return to Earth or movement to another orbit.
Tanker: a cargo-only propellant tanker to support the refilling of propellants in Earth orbit. The tanker will enable launching a heavy spacecraft to interplanetary space as the spacecraft being refueled can use its tanks twice, first to reach LEO and afterwards to leave Earth orbit. The tanker variant, also required for high-payload lunar flights, is expected to come only later; initial in-space propellant transfer will be from one standard Starship to another.
* SpaceX wants to eventually reach airline levels of safety due to engine-out capability.
* Rendezvous and docking operations will be automated