Published: Fri, August 30, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

SpaceX launches Starhopper 492 feet into air, lands it back on launchpad

SpaceX launches Starhopper 492 feet into air, lands it back on launchpad

Since the Starhopper only had one rocket, it didn't make sense for SpaceX to obsess over more such tests.

The company's Starhopper vehicle rose several hundred feet in the air just after 6 p.m. Tuesday at the SpaceX test site in Boca Chica, near Brownsville, then landed vertically several minutes later on a different pad.

Elon Musk tweeted that he was embarrassed by the aborted flight attempt by Starhopper, the experimental rocket ship it's using as a prototype for its Mars-bound vehicle Starship. SpaceX engineers can take confidence from this test as they move into finishing their builds of Starship orbital prototypes in Texas and Florida later this year.

This motor, known as the Raptor, will power SpaceX's next-generation Starship and Superheavy rockets.

The test, which was initially slated for Monday, was aborted less than a second before liftoff after concerns of faulty wiring in the engine's ignitor.

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"SpaceX's Starship and Super Heavy Rocket are created to deliver satellites to Earth orbit and beyond, at a lower marginal cost per launch than our current Falcon vehicles", the company says on its website. After the hop, which lasted around 50 seconds (the GIF above is sped up 2X) it successfully navigated itself to a target landing pad a short distance away. Musk has said this will be the final test flight for this particular prototype, and that it will be converted into a test stand for Starship's Raptor engines. The Starship and Super Heavy system is at the core of SpaceX stated mission: to colonize Mars.

SpaceX's plans to reach Mars are a cornerstone of the company - employees recently wore shirts that read "Occupy Mars", and the company's online store started selling shirts that say, "Nuke Mars", which refer to Musk's Twitter musings on how to warm up the Red Planet.

See the Starhopper hit new heights in the video below.

But he had a less ambitious goal for the Starhopper rocket that was tested today.

If this next hop is successful, Musk has said, he'll follow it with a public presentation "hopefully mid-September", updating us on the design and vision for Starship. "Will also be building Starship & Super Heavy simultaneously in both locations". This next test flight will be its last, according to Musk, and Starhopper will be stripped and its parts re-used for future projects. The Starship will be the flagship of SpaceX's line of vehicles and is meant to take passengers and cargo to destinations including Mars, the moon, low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.

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