Elon Musk has revealed images of his fully-assembled 120-foot tall Starship hopper test rocket.
The maverick billionaire entrepreneur unveiled his comic-book style spacecraft
continues to explore ways of one day sending people to Mars.
SpaceX founder Musk shared the first real images of the prototype from its Texas launch site and reassured his followers it is 'not a rendering'.
He says this spacecraft will perform suborbital flights and a taller version with 'thicker skins' will take passengers to Mars.
The craft has drawn comparisons to the rocket Tintin used in the 1954 adventure 'Explorers on the Moon'.
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Elon Musk has revealed images of his fully-assembled 120-foot tall Starship hopper test rocket (pictured)
'This is for suborbital VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) tests,' Mr Musk explained.
'Orbital version is taller, has thicker skins (won't wrinkle) & a smoothly curving nose section.'
This particular model will be used to test short launches and landings.
Earlier this month, the billionaire said SpaceX was aiming to carry out test flights within four weeks, but admitted it could be as long as eight weeks when unforeseen issues are factored in.
Responding to questions from space enthusiasts, Mr Musk said that the first orbital prototype should be ready by June.
The SpaceX founder also added that the real, finished version would '[obviously] have windows, etc.'
This work is taking place at both SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, and the company's test site in South Texas, near the border city of Brownsville, where the first flights will take place.
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.
Musk says this spacecraft will perform suborbital flights and a taller version with 'thicker skins' will take passengers to Mars
The maverick billionaire entrepreneur continues to explore ways of one day sending people to places as far as Mars. he previously posted this mock-up image
SpaceX's prototype starship that is being called 'test hopper' stands at the Boca Chica Beach site, near Brownsville, Texas on January 2
The svelte 120-foot-tall Starship design is similar to that of 1950s sci-fi favourite Destination Moon
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 key to Musk's plans to send humans to Mars.
Musk tweeted out the first 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.
The first crewed Red Planet mission for the rocket and 100-passenger Starship could come as early as the mid-2020s if development and testing go well, Musk has said
WHAT IS ELON MUSK'S 'BFR'?
The BFR (Big F***ing Rocket), now known as Starship, will complete all missions and is smaller than the ones Musk announced in 2016.
The SpaceX CEO said the rocket would take its first trip to the red planet in 2022, carrying only cargo, followed by a manned mission in 2024 and claimed other SpaceX's products would be 'cannibalised' to pay for it.
The rocket would be partially reusable and capable of flight directly from Earth to Mars.
Once built, Musk believes the rocket could be used for travel on Earth - saying that passengers would be able to get anywhere in under an hour.
This particular model will be used to test short launches and landings. Earlier this month, the billionaire said SpaceX was aiming to carry out test flights within four weeks
Elon Musk revealed his 'hopper' spaceship that could one day take man to the moon earlier this week and claims it could eventually take people to Mars
Just last month, the SpaceX boss doubled down on his earlier claims that he would likely be among the interplanetary travellers 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.'
THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE
Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin's space capsule
Jeff Bezos' space tourism project with Blue Origin is competing with a similar programme in development by Space X, the rocket firm founded and run by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Virgin Galactic, backed by Richard Branson.
Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.
The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable 'New Shepard' booster rocket.
The richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos is pursuing Blue Origin with vigour as he tries to launch his 'New Glenn' rocket into low-Earth orbit by 2020.
Whilst Bezos is yet to leave the atmosphere of Earth, despite several successful launches, Elon Musk's SpaceX programme has already sent the Falcon Heavy rocket into space.
On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent the rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away.
On board was a red Tesla roadster that belonged to Musk himself.
Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule
SpaceX have won several multi-million dollar contracts from Nasa as the space agency hopes to use the rockets as a fast-track for its colonisation of the red planet.
Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic recently successfully conducted a test flight of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity spaceplane.
The flight accelerated to over 1,400 miles per hour (Mach 1.87).
Calling space 'tantalisingly close', Branson also said last year that suborbital space in test flights could be happening by this spring.
More than 700 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin's space trips,
The billionaire mogul also said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX.
Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft
SpaceShipTwo will carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows - one to the side and one overhead.
The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.
A climb to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. Passengers become 'astronauts' when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth's atmosphere, at which point SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier aircraft, White Knight II.
The spaceship will then make a sub-orbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 3.5 hours.