Elon Musk’s Starship prototype is beginning to come together.
New pictures released this week show construction underway on the test vehicle of the SpaceX ship that could one day bring humans tourists to Mars.
The latest images provide a clearer view of the two components previewed by Musk at the end of last month, showing engineers in cherry-pickers at work on the nose cone and another large piece of the system.
In one view shared in a thread on the NASA Spaceflight forum, a large American flag can be seen plastered on the side of one of the huge metal cylinders.
The progress comes as SpaceX ramps up work on the test hopper ahead of planned flights later this year
Starship – previously known as BFR, Big Falcon Rocket, or the Big F***ing Rocket – is the crux of Musk’s plans to send humans to Mars.
Musk tweeted out the photo at the end of December, captioning it simply, ‘Stainless Steel Starship.’
In a series of tweets that followed, however, the CEO elaborated on the plans for the test vehicle.
Responding to questions from Twitter users, Musk confirmed it would use stainless steel, like the Atlas rocket family.
But, he explained, it will have a ‘different mixture of alloys & new architecture.’
‘Unlike Atlas, Starship is buckling stable on launchpad even when unpressurized,’ Musk said.
‘I will do a full technical presentation of Starship after the test vehicle we’re building in Texas flies, so hopefully March/April,’ he added.
Just last month, the SpaceX boss doubled down on his earlier claims that he would likely be among the interplanetary travelers who make the trip to Mars, despite there being a ‘good chance’ that he’ll die there.
Tickets on Elon Musk’s spaceship to Mars will cost around $200,000 per person.
SpaceX shared new details about the 387ft rocket in September, saying it hopes to begin unmanned launch tests of the spacecraft in late 2019.
In the future, Starship will be able to carry out lunar missions as well as long-distance flights to Mars and beyond.
The firm hopes to stage an uncrewed flight to Mars in 2022, then a manned flight in 2024.
In between those missions, SpaceX has planned for a private mission with a passenger on board in 2023.
‘We would like to put large cargo on the surface of the moon by 2022,’ SpaceX chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said recently.
‘And we have our eyes on the prize to send people to Mars in 2024.’