The Starship, SpaceX’s vessel designed to one day take humans to Mars, is set to fly higher than ever soon. Over the weekend, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk outlined plans for an upcoming prototype model of the ship, dubbed “SN8,” to fly up to 60,000 feet (or around 20 kilometers) into the air and return to Earth.
The launch would be the highest any model of the Starship has ever flown, beating this month’s “SN6” launch, last month’s “SN5” launch, and August 2019’s “Starhopper” launch. All these ships flew to a height of around 500 feet (or 150 meters). The flight would also send the ship soaring to nearly double the altitude of regular commercial airplanes, which cruise at a comparatively low height of around 35,000 feet.
The feat could pave the way for some of SpaceX’s grandest plans. The company is currently developing the ship at its Boca Chica facility in Texas, with the goal of a fully-reusable rocket capable of transporting over 150 tons or 100 people into space at a time. The ship could take on satellite launches similar to the Falcon 9, while its liquid oxygen and methane fuel enables passengers to explore Mars and return by refueling with the planet’s resources. Musk has previously outlined his goals to build a city on Mars by 2050.
On Saturday, Musk explained this next phase of the rocket’s development via his Twitter page. In around one week, SpaceX expects to complete an “SN8” prototype. This new model will sport flaps and a nosecone, looking closer to the final concept images than the simple silo that flew last month.