SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has a long-term goal of sending humankind to Mars such that we can colonize the red planet and exist in more places in our solar system than Earth alone. The concept challenges not only modern technology, but also science, and that’s why SpaceX alone has taken much of the burden of developing a rocket capable of such a feat.
Starhopper is the nickname given to a prototype of SpaceX’s upcoming interplanetary rocket, which will be powered by a brand-new Raptor engine. SpaceX recently performed a test ignition of Starhopper’s Raptor engine, enabling the prototype to ‘hop’ off the ground for a short period. SpaceX will gradually increase the height at which Starhopper jumps until the company is confident that it will perform to expectations.
Assuming the Starhopper project goes according to plan, SpaceX will move forward with an orbital version of the rocket that will still use SpaceX’s in-house Raptor engines. This orbital version will endure additional testing to ensure the stability of the platform before SpaceX finally moves forward with the final design for its interplanetary rocket.
Designing such a rocket for interplanetary travel is no easy feat, as SpaceX will need to make it light and powerful enough to transport several tons’ worth of cargo from one world to another – this includes people. The rocket will need to be capable of entering a planet’s atmosphere unscathed and being re-used several times.
It should be interesting to see how this project goes, especially since Martian colonization is a shared goal among SpaceX and NASA. Of course, only time will tell…