Elon Musk said he hopes to see the Starship perform its first orbital flight test in 2021, also warning that the Red Planet colony project might be a one-way ticket for the participants.
"I want to emphasise that this is a very hard and dangerous, difficult thing, not for the faint of heart", he stated. "Good chance you'll die, it's going to be tough going, but it will be pretty glorious if it works out".
During a "Humans to Mars" video conference, he claimed the company is making good progress, noting that "the thing that really impedes progress on Starship is the production system". However, according to Musk, the main problem not the journey itself, but keeping people alive on the barren planet.
"Getting to Mars, I think, is not the fundamental issue. The fundamental issue is building a base, building a city on Mars that is self-sustaining. We're going to build a propellant plant, an initial Mars base – Mars Base Alpha – and then get it to the point where it's self-sustaining".
The Starship is designed to be large enough to carry up to 100 passengers, and at the moment the company is testing its ability to reach Earth's orbit and return safely. After that, the next stage in the project will be to establish a launch facility on the Moon, and the ultimate goal is a Mars colony.