NASA and SpaceX have completed an important first step in a process which could see Elon Musk’s private space exploration company take astronauts back to the moon and to Mars.
A draft environmental assessment for SpaceX’s Starship and Super Heavy launch vehicle taking off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida has been completed.
The assessment says that SpaceX would be required to build additional infrastructure near to the landing facility for the reusable rocket in Cape Canaveral.
The assessment also confirms that SpaceX intends to eventually launch the Starship and Super Heavy vehicle approximately 24 times per year, including lunar and Mars missions, as well as satellite and human space missions.
It follows Elon Musk claiming it would be easier for his company to just land on the moon than try to convince NASA it is up to the task.
Starship is the company’s new spacecraft, which at the moment is only completing sub-orbital flights, or “hops” – racing high into the atmosphere before landing back on Earth.
The orbital version will work in conjunction with SpaceX’s new rocket booster called the Super Heavy.
This configuration is also taller, has thicker skins which will not wrinkle when exposed to the pressure of orbital flight, and also has a smoothly curving nose section.
The spacecraft has been troubled this year, with a prototype being toppled and damaged by high winds in Texas back in January.
A blaze at the experimental facility in California earlier this month caused up to $100,000 (£80,000) damage to equipment and infrastructure.
Marking the 50th anniversary since the Apollo 11 mission in which humans first stepped onto the moon, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine has told Sky News the agency is sending a woman to the moon in 2024.