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Elon Musk says SpaceX will hopefully launch first Starship orbital flight in May

Prototypes of SpaceX’s Starship rocket and Super Heavy booster stand at the company’s Starbase facility in Texas.
Michael Sheetz | CNBC

Elon Musk on Monday gave an update on the timeline for SpaceX’s first orbital launch of the company’s next-generation Starship rocket.

“We’ll have 39 flightworthy engines built by next month, then another month to integrate, so hopefully May for orbital flight test,” Musk tweeted in response to CNBC.

Starship is the nearly 400-foot tall, reusable rocket that SpaceX has been developing, with the goal of creating a vehicle that can carry cargo and groups of people beyond Earth. The rocket and its Super Heavy booster are powered by SpaceX’s Raptor series of engines.

In February, Musk gave a presentation on Starship at the company’s Starbase facility in Texas, outlining the path forward and obstacles for the rocket’s testing.

SpaceX has completed multiple high-altitude flight tests with Starship prototypes, but its next major step is to reach space. While that milestone was expected to be reached last year, development progress has been delayed and the orbital flight test is also pending regulatory approval.

SpaceX needs a license from the Federal Aviation Administration, with the regulator expected to complete a key environmental assessment by March 28. CNBC has reached out to the FAA for comment.

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