Going up: Watch SpaceX's Starhopper soar to new heights

James Marshall
August 30, 2019

SpaceX's Starhopper served as a test vehicle for Musk's Starship launch system - which would consist of a Super Heavy booster with 35 next-generation Raptor engines, plus a Starship craft with six Raptors.

The spacecraft, shaped a bit like R2-D2 from the "Star Wars" movies, appeared to reach its FAA-approved 492-foot (150-meter) altitude limit, moved sideways and slowly descended to an on-target touchdown at a nearby landing pad.

SpaceX started streaming from its test launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas a few minutes before its scheduled launch time Monday, so it's a good idea to keep an eye on the company's YouTube channel Tuesday to get the best view of the hop.

Asked about the impact on Boca Chica Village residents once higher altitude testing of the more powerful Mk1 begins, Trevino said the situation will be addressed when it comes time. The company aims to build several prototypes to test different designs.

This was the fourth flight for the prototype created to test the Raptor engine that Musk plans to use to power his upcoming rockets Starship and Super Heavy.

The test will be the mightiest SpaceX has done for the Starhopper program, aiming to send the reusable rocket 500 feet in the sky and land it back on its launchpad.

With Starhopper's work now done, though, workers will soon cannibalise it for parts and turn it into a peculiar-looking test stand for Raptor engines that will power SpaceX's rockets of the future. Over the past year, SpaceX has quietly worked on Starhopper at its lesser known Boca Chica facility in Texas, United States. They received the notices on Monday, before a hop test attempt that was ultimately aborted, and ahead of the successful flight on Tuesday. The test came off successfully and certified the company's capacity to control the vehicle's single Raptor engine in flight.

The latest iteration of the Starship is a three-finned stainless steel construction straight out of the fictional universe of Flash Gordon.

Also hoping for continued success is Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa; the entrepreneur has the Starship-Super Heavy system lined up for a round-the-moon flight set sometime in 2023.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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