SpaceX has completed another successful hop test of its next-generation Starship rocket that could one day take astronauts on missions into deep space.
The space transportation company, which famously perfected the art of landing a rocket upright shortly after launch, on Thursday blasted the Starship SN6 — its largest prototype to date but still without a nose cone — 150 meters into the air before bringing it safely back down to terra firma.
The successful test using a single Raptor engine to power the 50-meter-tall rocket took place at SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The video below shows the entire event and includes the audible roar of delighted spectators when they see the Starship emerge from the dust unscathed following its brief trip.
IGNITION! Starship SN6 Hop Test!
Under the power of Raptor SN29, SN6 has completed a near-mirror test of SN5’s hop!
— Chris B – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) September 3, 2020
This is the second consecutive successful hop test of the Starship following another one in early August. The latest achievement is a significant step forward for the team, as it appears to confirm the reliability of the rocket’s fuel systems and control in the air. It means that before too long we can expect to see a higher hop test, or possibly something more ambitious such as a test flight taking it to an altitude of 20 km, a feat SpaceX boss Elon Musk has already said that he wants to see as part of the development process.
The Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket (collectively referred to as Starship) will on day become a fully reusable transportation system able to carry up to 100 people and cargo to Earth orbit, the moon, Mars, and possibly beyond.
Starship will launch atop SpaceX’s almighty first-stage Super Heavy rocket, powered by 31 Raptor engines. When it reaches space, Starship will use six Raptor engines to power it between different destinations, with its innovative design enabling it to land back on Earth or even another planet.
As you’d expect with such cutting-edge technology, Starship tests haven’t always gone smoothly. The SN1 and SN4, for example, were completely destroyed during testing.
In recent days, Musk said the Starship project is now making “good progress,” with the rocket perhaps seeing its first orbital test flight in 2021.
“The first ones might not work,” Musk cautioned, adding, “This is uncharted territory. Nobody’s ever made a fully reusable orbital rocket.”
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