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.
Starhopper was built at SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch facility, near Brownsville, Texas, and the company’s fans have been watching avidly from afar as ground crews installed the first Raptor engine and tested out the propulsion system’s plumbing. Not just one, but two webcams have been tracking the activity day by day.
The payoff came at around 7:56 p.m. CT (5:56 p.m. PT), when bright orange flames spouted amid the fog.
“This is the first ever firing of a rocket engine at the launch site,” Next Spaceflight’s Michael Baylor tweeted.
HOT FIRE!!! Raptor comes to life at the base of Starhopper as the vehicle performs a tethered hop at SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch ...