SpaceX made significant progress on its deep-space Starhopper starship project last week after a prototype of the spacecraft’s rocket conducted its first untethered flight at the commercial space company’s South Texas-based proving ground in Boca Chica just before midnight on Thursday.
Image Credit: Elon Musk/Twitter
Equipped with a single roaring Raptor engine, the Starhopper prototype lofted itself up and away from the ground and jumped 20 meters into the air before landing. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter shortly after the test launch to say, “Starhopper test flight successful. Water towers *can* fly haha!!”
SpaceX had initially planned to conduct this test launch a day earlier, but fuel chamber pressure complications compelled the company to stand down and wait another day. Fortunately, Thursday’s test launch was successful and well worth the wait. Here’s some footage of that test launch, shared to YouTube by Everyday Astronaut:
The launch was also substantial because it involved the flight of a full-flow-staged-combustion (FFSC) rocket engine. While space agencies around the world have built prototypes of this breed of engine before, they’ve never flown them. SpaceX officially became the first entity in the world to fly one of these types of engines on Thursday.
While it may not look like much at first glance, this is the first step for SpaceX in proving its upcoming Starhopper platform. If anything, the launch proved to the company’s engineers that the platform is stable enough to continue development.
The final product is expected to look much different than what we witnessed in the footage, and it will be particularly significant because it could become an interplanetary transportation platform for future missions to the Moon and Mars, among other things.
As you might come to expect, SpaceX will move forward with more robust launch tests soon. The next test is poised to take the Starhopper prototype approximately 200 meters in the air, which is around ten times higher than what we saw here. It should be interesting to see how that goes…