"I think we'll be able to do short flights, up and down flights sometime in the first half of next year", he declared at the South by South West (SXSW) festival in Texas.
In addition to detailing his lofty ambitions, the SpaceX CEO warned those who are eager to make the journey to the Red Planet there is a "good chance" they could die.
He also warned that a colony on Mars wouldn't be an "escape hatch for rich people", but rather a new frontier. Less than 120 minutes later, SpaceX/Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the demo satellites - each measuring about the size of a mini-refrigerator and carrying computer, power, command and control, propulsion and Global Positioning System navigation equipment - had successfully deployed and begun communicating with Earth stations.
More pressing to Mr Musk, and the investors that enable him, might be the backlog of orders for the Model 3, Tesla's "affordable" new auto. At the event, Mr Musk painted a picture of what he felt such a society would need to look like in order to be a success.
He said: "I think once we build it we'll have a point of proof, something that other companies and countries can go and do".
"SpaceX is alive by the skin of its teeth, and so is Tesla - if things had just gone a little differently, both companies would be dead", he said.
But after the infrastructure is complete, "then really the explosion of entrepreneurial opportunity [will begin] because Mars will need everything from iron foundries to pizza joints", he said, CNBC reported. He also speculated that "most likely, the form of government on Mars would be somewhat of a direct democracy", in which residents would vote directly on particular issues.
And he feared a nuclear war would destroy human life on Earth, reports the BBC. He added, "Mark my words, AI is far more risky than nukes".
"It kind of reads like [Ernest] Shackleton's ad to Antarctic explorers: It's hard, dangerous, good chance you will die, excitement for those who survive, that kind of thing", Musk said. And if he doesn't try and get us to Mars, who will?