SpaceX’s Starhopper rocket managed to successfully “hop” on Tuesday afternoon, with the Starship prototype hovering about 150 meters (492 feet) above ground for several seconds before touching down on a nearby landing pad.
This is the second successful test of the Starhopper rocket’s Raptor engines. It’s an early iteration of SpaceX’s Starship, which is designed to be reusable and able to launch and land on surfaces – including the surface of the moon and Mars.
The daytime test in Boca Chica, Texas, came a day after SpaceX was forced to abort its planned Monday test due a wiring problem with the engine’s igniters, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
Raptor uses dual redundant torch igniters. Better long-term, but more finicky in development.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 26, 2019
By proving that the Starship concept works, SpaceX has taken the first step in a major leap forward for space travel. Instead of shooting a ship into space with a rocket that is essentially useless afterward, Starship could theoretically leave Earth’s orbit, land on another planet, then launch itself back into space – sort of like a ship in your favorite science fiction movie.
Starhopper completed its first successful hop in July, hovering in the air for a few seconds at about 65 feet in the air. That nighttime test came after an earlier attempt ended with Starhopper’s rocket bursting into flames.
That’s not to say Tuesday’s test was quiet: public officials in Boca Chica warned that the test could be a “potential risk to health and safety,” and that a malfunction during the flight could shoot out so much pressure that it could break windows. Cameron County officials told residents to go outside – and take their pets with them – in case of broken glass caused by the test.
Now that it’s had a second successful test, SpaceX will continue work on a Starship, with the goal of helping set up a colony on Mars, bringing people on a trip around the moon, and even being used for transcontinental travel.
Assuming everything goes well, the first real missions for the Starship are expected to launch as early as 2021.