The Starhopper “hopped’ about 500ft (152m) upwards on Tuesday, August 27, at a SpaceX facility in South Texas, US. The Starhopper then travelled approximately 650ft (198m) to the right before settling down on a landing platform. Armed with a single SpaceX Raptor engine, the test flight was the longest and highest in a series of hop-like launches. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk celebrated the successful launch online, teasing a Mars-bound future for the rocket.
Elon Musk tweeted: “One day Starship will land on the rusty sands of Mars.”
The Starhopper is a scaled-down prototype of the interplanetary Starship spacecraft.
Affectionally dubbed the Starhopper after its brief test flights, the water tower-like construct is being assembled at two facilities.
The first Starship prototype launched at SpaceX’s facilities in Boca Chica, Texas.
A second stainless steel rocket is being assembled at SpaceX facilities in Florida.
Last night’s test flight was initially pencilled in for Monday but a technical fault with the engine delayed the launch a second before liftoff.
Following the aborted test flight, Mr Musk told his 28 million Twitter followers the engine’s igniters had to be inspected.
Once completed, the SpaceX Starship will serve as the upper stage of the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) launch vehicle.
The lower booster stage, dubbed the Super Heavy rocket, will carry the Starship into orbit with up to 41 Raptor engines.
The Super Heavy will act like the company’s signature Falcon 9 rocket and will be used for multiple launches with the ability to refuel in space, reenter Earth’s atmosphere and land on the ground.
The Starship, on the other hand, will ferry people from Earth to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
SpaceX’s rocket will carry up to 100 people on the journey to Mars and will set the stage for Mr Musk’s ambitious desire to colonised the Red Planet.
Since the rocket was first unveiled to the world in 2016, the Starship has undergone at least three redesigns and a rebranding.
Initially known as the Mars Colonial Transporter, the rocket featured a white design with three fins running along the length of the rocket’s body.
The rocket was renamed the Starship and was given a sleeker, more streamlined black and white design with actuated fins.
The latest iteration of the Starship is a three-finned stainless steel construction straight out of the fictional universe of Flash Gordon.
However, Mr Musk hinted at a new design update when he tweeted on August 4 about revising the “pros and cons” of each design decision.