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Date SpaceX Starship carries a human to orbit


After many years of developing a human-rated vehicle, SpaceX recently carried humans to the International Space Station on its Crew Dragon capsule atop its partially-reusable Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX's Starship rocket is an under-development super heavy-lift launch vehicle, intended to be fully reusable and to carry humans to destinations throughout the Solar System. Although SpaceX has proven that it can successfully accomplish some aspects of this (reuse a rocket's core stage multiple times, carry humans in a spacecraft), there are further milestones to overcome (recover all stages of a rocket, build a rocket from stainless steel, etc.).

When will SpaceX's Starship carry a human to orbit?

Starship has undergone many design and name changes since its inception. Therefore, for the purposes of this question, "Starship" refers to any SpaceX vehicle, or prototype/early version thereof, that is:

  • not an existing member of the Falcon family (Falcon 9/Heavy) or a Falcon derivative
  • intended to be fully reusable, with every stage returned to Earth (smaller portions such as fairings may be expended)
  • The vehicle must have a stated payload to LEO of at least 20,000 kg (of pure payload, e.g. the Space Shuttle Orbiter would not count as payload mass). This is very conservative, so Starship would qualify even if it were greatly scaled down from today.
  • The vehicle must be intended to carry a payload to Mars at some point, according to public statements of SpaceX or its representatives.
  • The vehicle design must be descended from the current (2020) design of Starship. Any number of design changes are acceptable, but a redesign from scratch is not (see Ship of Theseus).

To be considered to reach orbit, the human in question must complete at least one orbit of some planetary body ; that is, while maintaining an altitude of at least 50 km, they must pass over the same longitude or the same latitude twice. It is acceptable if the human arrived in orbit on some other vehicle, and only subsequently entered Starship, as long as they complete one orbit while inside Starship. The human must be alive at the time that this occurs, but do not need to safely return to Earth (or, for that matter, anywhere else) afterwards.

(Edited 2020-06-09 to add last three disambiguation bullets.)

(Edited 2020-06-11 to remove obsolete clause about payload and adde acceptability of getting to orbit not on Starship.)

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