Published: Sun, April 07, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

SpaceX Finally Tests Its 'Starhopper' Prototype Spacecraft in Texas

SpaceX Finally Tests Its 'Starhopper' Prototype Spacecraft in Texas

Elon Musk tweeted then than it was a success.

The prototype being tested is suborbital, but SpaceX is building an orbital version at Boca Chica.

While details of the Starhopper test are scarce, anticipation has been high in recent weeks as SpaceX outfitted the prototype with three of the company's new Raptor methane-liquid oxygen engines. The test was a tethered hop that let the engine do a "static fire" while connected to the ground so engineering teams could monitor it. He posted a two-second video after the second test April 6, showing the engine igniting and the vehicle, largely obscured by the plume from the engine, appearing to rise off the pad slight.

While the vehicle was grounded, the test on Wednesday evening did mark the first time it lit up its engine. The vehicle now being tested is only the lower section, hosting engines, propellant tanks and landing gear. While SpaceX originally said it would use the test site around once per month, a local told the site that Highway 4 has been closed every day for the past week; each closure reportedly lasts about eight hours.

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The vehicle will later perform a series of free flights to test its ability to both take off and land vertically. However, the test only lasted shortly. The up-and-down nature of these tests led to the vehicle being dubbed a "hopper" and, later, Starhopper.

In February 2019, Raptor's full-scale version was sacked up for the first time. SpaceX has not disclosed the exact number of hop tests it will do. Also, the FAA issued airspace restrictions around the launch site on Boca Chica Beach. That rocket would be capable of reaching Mars.

The SpaceX Starhopper is a suborbital prototype created to test the concepts and technologies necessary to construct its new 100-person spacecraft, called Starship, and its massive booster, the Super Heavy.

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