The repeatedly rescheduled maiden orbital flight of Starship, a SpaceX rocket designed to fly humans to Mars one day, just got a new date. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is now targeting late April, and hinted his preference would be April 20, to launch the historic mission on 4/20, the unofficial holiday dedicated to smoking marijuana.
“SpaceX will be ready to launch Starship in a few weeks,” Musk tweeted yesterday (March 16), adding that the exact date will depend on when the Federal Aviation Administration will issue the flight license for the mission. “Assuming that takes a few weeks, first launch attempt will be near end of third week of April, aka…” Musk said in the tweet, alluding to April 20, which is the third Thursday of April.
The orbital flight of Starship will be a test mission flying a fully-stacked Starship rocket to 100 miles in the sky for the first time. If successful, Starship will be the largest rocket developed by a private company to ever reach Earth’s orbit and prove its viability for many space missions. SpaceX has been preparing for this test for several years, with smaller prototypes and test flights to lower altitudes.
There is only a roughly 50 percent chance of Starship reaching orbital altitude on its first attempt, Musk said at a Morgan Stanley conference in San Francisco on March 7. SpaceX’s near-term goal is to use Starship for regular cargo and crew missions, replacing the Falcon 9 rocket.
Musk’s obsession with the number 420
It’s no secret Musk has somewhat of an obsession with the number 420, cannabis culture slang for marijuana consumption. The number pops up in his social media jokes just as often as in pivotal business transactions. The origin of “420” is murky, although the best guess is 4:20 p.m. was the time of day high school students in California in the 1970s would meet to smoke weed.
In 2018, Musk proposed to take Tesla private for $420 per share and claimed he had funding secured. (The deal never happened.) Last year, Musk acquired Twitter for $54.20 per share in a merger that valued the social media company at $44 billion, a significant premium over over its market value.
In January, during a trial over his 2018 Tesla funding claim, Musk denied allegations that his choice of $420 was a pot joke. Instead, he was aiming for a 20 percent premium over Tesla’s stock price at the time, he said.
However, Musk admitted he thinks 420 is a special number. “There is some, I think, karma around 420. I should question whether that is good or bad karma at this point,” the Tesla CEO said in court.