Starhopper may fly again TODAY: Boca Chica locals warned that tests could shatter windows in the case of malfunction, as Elon Musk’s prototype gets the go-ahead for biggest ‘hop’ yet
- SpaceX’s Starhopper is set to attempt a 150 meter untethered hover
- The leap would be almost ten times higher than a previous one in July
- In a warning, the FAA says that an ‘overpressure event’ could shatter windows
- Success comes shortly after a successful hop in July that sent the ship 20 meters
- This would be the last hover test for the craft as it transitions into other aspects
SpaceX has gotten a green light from the FAA to conduct the biggest ever test of its Starhopper craft — so big that the agency is apparently concerned about damage to nearby windows.
NASA Spaceflight reports that the Elon Musk-owned, SpaceX, was given the approval to conduct a hover test of the craft as soon as Monday night out of its facility on Boca Chica, Texas.
The test will hopefully send Musk’s experimental Starhopper soaring 150 meters into the air without a tether — nearly ten times the distance of a previous hop in July — and land it back down onto a pad.
A test window will open at 4 pm local time and extend for 15 minutes, while road closures start at 2 pm.
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SpaceX’s successful tests marked a major step for the company and for Starhopper which has never flown into the air without a tether prior to last month’s launch
According to the FAA, because of the power behind Starhopper’s methane-powered Raptor engine, nearby residents are being asked to either temporarily relocate to a different area or go outside briefly during the test.
The fear is that a possible ‘overpressure event’ could shatter windows, says the agency.
This would be the biggest and final test of Starhopper which made an equally momentous test hop last month.
The craft — a squat and strikingly large ship — successfully hovered 20 meters off the ground without a tether for the first time.
If the test is successful, NASA Spaceflight notes that Starhopper will transition into a vertical test of SpaceX’s Raptor engines and eventually even larger prototypes of Musk’s coveted Starship craft.
Raptor engines are used to propel the Starhopper, which are also made by Musk’s SpaceX
Starhopper is the test vehicle for SpaceX’s ultimate goal of developing a sleeker craft called the Starship which Musk hopes will eventually take human passengers on a number of missions into space.
Just a few miles away from Starhopper’s test site, SpaceX employees have been hard at work building the next prototype of the craft, the MK1, which will eventually attempt to achieve longer journeys into the air.
Musk said in July that the MK1 could take flight within the next two to three months and aims to conduct a flight as far as 20 to 30 kilometers later this year.
A concurrent team in Florida is also in the midst of building a similar MK2 rocket with a different design and specs.
The two teams are competing and collaborating in an effort to accelerate the future ship’s development.
A view of the Starhopper rocket after a successful untethered test of SpaceX’s Raptor engine in it at their facility in Boca Chica, near Brownsville, Texas, U.S. July 25, 2019
Ultimately, Musk hopes that the company’s Starship could help humans reach Mars for the first time and has set an optimistic timeline for when the experimental craft might be able to do so.
The first crewed Red Planet mission for the rocket and 100-passenger Starship could come as early as the mid-2020s if development and testing go well, Musk has said
Additional missions may even include tourists trips to the moon by 2024, according to the CEO.
Completing a successful mission to the moon would also mark an incremental step in Musk’s other vision of traveling to Mars.
WHAT IS ELON MUSK’S ‘BFR’?
The BFR (Big F***ing Rocket), now known as Starship, will complete all missions and is smaller than the ones Musk announced in 2016.
The SpaceX CEO said the rocket would take its first trip to the red planet in 2022, carrying only cargo, followed by a manned mission in 2024 and claimed other SpaceX’s products would be ‘cannibalised’ to pay for it.
The rocket would be partially reusable and capable of flight directly from Earth to Mars.
Once built, Musk believes the rocket could be used for travel on Earth – saying that passengers would be able to get anywhere in under an hour.