SpaceX’s Starhopper takes one giant leap

Starhopper fires engine
SpaceX’s Starhopper fires its methane-fueled Raptor engine during a test hop. (Elon Musk via Twitter)

A prototype rocket that looks more like a water tower took a 500-foot-high hop today in Texas, blazing a methane-fueled trail for a spaceship that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk plans to send to the moon and Mars within a few years.

SpaceX’s Starhopper served as a test vehicle for Musk’s Starship launch system – which would consist of a Super Heavy booster with 35 next-generation Raptor engines, plus a Starship craft with six Raptors.

Starship could be used to loft people, cargo or fuel out of Earth orbit and onward to deep space. “One day Starship will land on the rusty sands of Mars,” Musk wrote in a tweet after today’s test.

If Musk’s vision comes to fruition on his current timetable, Starship’s first Mars landing could happen in the mid-2020s. But he had a less ambitious goal for the Starhopper rocket that was tested today.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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