SpaceX’s Starhopper recently passed its final test flight. The prototype for the Starship rocket rose 150 meters (about 492 feet) into the air at the firm’s test facility in Boca Chica, Texas, as Futurism reports.
The spacecraft’s “hop” was short. It lifted off the ground just after 6 p.m. ET on August 27 and reportedly hit a “hover altitude” before it flew sideways and touched down at a separate landing pad. In all, the test took just 57 seconds to complete.
Second Time’s a Charm
The successful test follows three previous Starhopper trial flights. The ship was tethered for safety during two prior hop attempts in April. The vehicle completed its first untethered test hop on July 25. During that run, it rose 65 feet off the ground.
This week’s flight was supposed to happen on August 26. However, the test was aborted after an issue was discovered with the igniters on the ship’s Raptor engine.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk celebrated Starhopper’s successful (and highest) hop to date on Twitter. He shared video footage and a photo of the rocket blasting into the air.
Congrats SpaceX team!! pic.twitter.com/duckYSK0D4
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 27, 2019
Musk joked with his followers, calling the space vessel “R2D2’s Dad” in another tweet. He also congratulated the SpaceX team on the successful hop.
Passing the Torch
The event marked Starhopper’s final test flight. The rocket will pass the torch to two more orbital prototypes. The Hawthorne, California-based company has dubbed them “Mk1” and “Mk2.” According to a CNBC report, SpaceX is building the vehicles at sites in Texas and Florida.
Musk tweeted photos of the Texas prototype during the first week of August.
Just left Starship Texas build site. Very proud of progress SpaceX team has made! Pics are of 9m dome rotation & Starship airframe behind windbreak. pic.twitter.com/1cmOzkPlkn
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 5, 2019
All of the prototypes are smaller than SpaceX’s 100-passenger Starship, which will boast six Raptor engines. Mk1 and Mk2 will contain three Raptors each. The Super Heavy companion rocket will have 35 Raptors.
Preparing to Transport People to Space
SpaceX is aiming to conduct the first Starship commercial launch by 2021. That’s a pretty aggressive goal. Launching successful test flights of the new prototypes will help enable Starship to make its inaugural liftoff.
However, a lot must happen before Starship blasts into outer space. For one, SpaceX plans to modify NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to accommodate the giant rockets.
The International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 60 team recently installed a new Commercial Crew docking port at the orbiting lab to support future SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner arrivals. Meanwhile, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have participated in several training exercises to prepare for their future Crew Dragon journey to the ISS.
For now, the company continues to run scientific experiments back and forth from Earth to the ISS via its Cargo Dragon spaceship.
Musk plans to launch the new Starship prototypes within the next couple of months. If all goes as planned, the visionary executive believes that the massive rocket will enable the private aerospace company to achieve its goal of carrying people to the moon and on to Mars.