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.
Starhopper’s mission was to gauge the oomph of a single methane-fueled Raptor engine as it sent a squat, 30-foot-wide tank structure to a height of 500 feet (150 meters) and brought it back down to a landing pad at ...