Elon Musk reveals assembled Starship test rocket

Starship test flight rocket just finished assembly at the SpaceX Texas launch site

Starship test flight rocket just finished assembly at the SpaceX Texas launch site

SpaceX, the pioneering space technology company led by Elon Musk, will lay off about 10 percent of its more than 6,000 employees.

Formerly known as the BFR, Musk announced on Thursday that the spaceflight company's test version of the Starship, dubbed the "hopper", has just finished being assembled at SpaceX's launch site in Boca Chica Village, Texas.

On Jan. 5, Musk posted a computer render of the test rocket on Twitter.

Later versions of the rocket will be taller and thicker with a smaller nose cone.

Its first test flights - suborbital "hops" reaching several miles (kilometers) in the air before landing back on Earth - could come in March or April.

Responding to questions from space enthusiasts, Mr Musk said that the first orbital prototype should be ready by June. But eventually, the company hopes this is the machine that'll form the basis of future missions to the moon and Mars. Earlier this month, the billionaire said SpaceX was aiming to carry out test flights within four weeks, but admitted it could be as long as eight weeks when unforeseen issues are factored in.

This two-stage vehicle - composed of a Booster and a Ship - is created to eventually replace the company's Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and the Dragon spacecraft.