SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has hinted that a simultaneous test of two Mars-bound Starship spacecraft later this month.
Starship prototypes were pictured on a launchpad at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas on 1 January.
When asked on Twitter whether a test would be performed “in the next few weeks”, Mr Musk replied, “yes.”
The flight test would involve the Starship SN9 and SN10 prototypes, which are currently both under development.
Before either of them fly, they will first need to perform a static fire test to check the triple Raptor engines are functioning correctly.
SpaceX completed a largely successful test of its Starship SN8 prototype in December, launching it 12.5km into the air and performing a complex landing flip manoeuvre before crash landing.
Mr Musk described the test and subsequent fiery explosion as “epic”, explaining that the Starship craft came down too quickly to land successfully.
“Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high and RUD, but we got all the data we needed!” he tweeted.
“SN8 did great! Even reaching apogee would’ve been great, so controlling all way to putting the crater in the right spot was epic.”
SpaceX Starship crashes in huge fireball explosion
The technology billionaire has made Starship’s development the top priority at SpaceX, having set an ambitious timeline of sending the first humans to Mars aboard the craft by 2024.
SpaceX plans to eventually build thousands of Starship craft at a rate of 100 per year in order to ferry crews and cargo around the solar system, with each vehicle capable of carrying up to 100 people.
The eventual goal of the private space firm is to establish a permanent presence on Mars and transform humanity into a multi-planetary species.
The firm is currently working in conjunction with Nasa to send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), and was one of several companies selected by the US space agency to build human landers for its Artemis space program.
Through Artemis, the next men and first women will travel to the moon by 2024, with plans for a lunar base to be established by the end of the decade.
This base could then be used to launch further missions to other parts of the solar system.