SpaceX has been doing very well with its contract missions to send satellites into Earth orbit and supplies to the International Space Station. This week SpaceX tested its strange-looking stainless-steel starship prototype called StarHopper. The test was the first time that StarHopper had flown without tethers holding it to the ground.
StarHopper fired up its Raptor engine and slowly lifted into the air during the hover test. The test was a success and proved that the Raptor engine was able to climb, hover, move a short distance horizontally and then safely land. Another interesting aspect of this flight was that the test took place at SpaceX's facility in South Texas. This flight test marks the first time anything has flown from that facility.
During the test, StarHopper climbed to about 20 meters high, which is about 65-feet, and moved slightly using its own navigation. StarHopper is a stepping stone that is meant to allow SpaceX to test its Raptor engine before building the full-scale Starship reusable spacecraft. The untethered flight is a key milestone in the development process. The next test for StarHopper is to try a higher hop test with the spacecraft rising to 200 meters. SpaceX hopes to conduct this test in about a week or so.
Drone cam pic.twitter.com/gVdMrMgUZq— e^👁🥧 (@elonmusk) July 26, 2019
Musk has plans to fly the Starship MK 1 vehicle in the next two or three months. Some details on Starship are still unknown. One key detail is the number of engines it will have; it's unclear if it will have three or six Raptor engines. Later this year SpaceX plans to take the Mk 1 spacecraft to an altitude of 20 or 30 km. In Florida, SpaceX engineers are working on Starship Mk 2 with goals that are similar to the Mk I spacecraft in Texas. SpaceX has claimed it will be ready to put humans back on the moon by 2022.