NASA is helping SpaceX get a fix on potential landing sites on Mars for its Starship super-spaceship, with an emphasis on Arcadia Planitia and Amazonis Planitia, regions where deposits of water ice may be found.
Another focus of NASA’s reconnaissance campaign in Phlegra Montes, a mountainous area just west of Arcadia Planitia in Mars’ northern hemisphere.
Pictures of the candidate sites were captured from orbit by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in June and July, and included in last month’s roundup of MRO imagery.
After weeks of preparation, the prototype test vehicle for SpaceX’s monster spaceship, known as Starhopper, fired up its methane-powered Raptor rocket engine for the first time today and lifted ever so slightly off its Texas launch pad.
“Starhopper completed tethered hop,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reported in a tweet. “All systems green.”
The round-topped rocket is meant to serve as a testbed for SpaceX’s interplanetary-class Starship, just as earlier testbeds known as the Grasshopper and the F9R Dev blazed a trail for SpaceX’s self-landing Falcon 9 rocket boosters.
For weeks, photographers have been snapping pictures of a retro-looking, shiny stainless-steel rocket that’s been taking shape at SpaceX’s launch site in South Texas — and tonight, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk declared that assembly of the first Starship short-hop test rocket is complete.
Significantly more ambitious and capital-intensive projects are on SpaceX’s longer-range agenda: The company is working on a constellation of thousands of Starlink satellites that are designed to provide global internet access as well as a revenue stream that, over the long run, may be more substantial than the launch business. SpaceX’s team in Redmond, Wash., has been given the lead role in the Starlink project.
Maezawa is paying an undisclosed but reportedly substantial amount for the journey on SpaceX’s yet-to-be-built BFR spaceship, and there are scads of details to be worked out before the launch date, which is currently set for 2023.
He’s made a name for himself as a musician and art collector as well as an entrepreneur. During tonight’s big reveal at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., Maezawa said he intended to invite six to eight artists from around the world, on the level of the late Pablo Picasso or Michael Jackson, to go around the moon with him.