The "test hopper", as Musk and COO Gwynne Shotwell call it, isn't actually meant to fly into space.
Its first test flights - suborbital "hops" reaching several miles (kilometers) in the air before landing back on Earth - could come in March or April. Despite this high-tech promise, fans will have to wait for this concept to become a reality, since the Starship is just a test rocket for now. This time around, he's referencing Hergè's classic Tintin cartoons, as well as 1950s sci-fi classics like Destination Moon,.
In a followup Tweet, Musk clarified that this isn't what the orbital version of the ship will look like due to a different exterior skin. This is an early peek at the rocket that SpaceX hopes will take people to Mars, ferry people across the world at high speed, and carry high-paying tourists around the moon. Formerly known as the BFR, the Starship remains the company's most ambitious project.
The orbital Starship will be similar to the Falcon rockets in that there will be two stages: the Super Heavy booster that will land back on Earth after getting the Starship away from Earth's gravitational pull, and then the Starship that will take people to Mars.
Because of its experimental and limited nature, the SpaceX team could get a little more creative with the design.