SpaceX’s exciting Starship prototype, also known as the “Starhopper,” took another step forward in its development, firing its engine for the first time. SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, said the tethered test was a success.
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The Starhopper got hot and heavy on Wednesday as its engines were fired for just under a minute at the SpaceX Boca Chica launch site in Texas. In documentation from the event, the Starhopper looks like a surreal shiny bullet surrounded by a powerful ring of fire.
Musk gives green light
Elon Musk confirmed the test went well with a short Twitter post simply saying, “Starhopper completed tethered hop. All systems green.” There isn’t a lot of information available about the Starhopper test, however, reports from Ars Technica indicate the latest engine firing is just one test in a long line the Spacex engineers have been conducting recently.
Starhopper completed tethered hop. All systems green. https://t.co/0m5Bm5slD2
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 4, 2019
Other tests involve analyzing the cryogenic properties of the fuel tanks, loading liquid oxygen and liquid methane fuels onto the vehicle, and removing the propellant.
The starship is envisaged by Musk and SpaceX to be the vehicle that will send humans to Mars and the moon. It was only in January that the first glimpses of the Starship prototype were revealed, and there has been lots of news since. Including when the retro-inspired spaceship was blown over by strong winds in January.
Starship inspires a generation
Musk reported that the moorings holding the vessel down broke during 50 miles per hour winds. The fairing suffered the worst damage, and at the time it was expected to take weeks to repair. But the repairs seem to have been completed on time and the almost cartoon-like spacecraft is certainly ready for its next steps.
Looking at images of the Starship it's hard to believe that this beautiful object is capable of deep space travel. Most of that visual impact comes from the stainless steel body that it sports.
Starship test flight rocket just finished assembly at the @SpaceX Texas launch site. This is an actual picture, not a rendering. pic.twitter.com/k1HkueoXaz— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 11, 2019
Some SpaceX fans and observers have expressed their concerns on why SpaceX chose stainless steel instead of more lightweight materials like carbon fiber or aluminum or the more expensive titanium. However, Musk has explained that the choice was deliberate considering the fact that this rocket is going to make a lot of re-entries, and thus, has to withstand a lot of heat buildup.
SpaceX engineers pull out all stops
Of course, the material isn’t your average stainless steel either. SpaceX engineers have created a new alloy, specifically developed to withstand the rigors of space. Elon Musk has made no secret of his desire to get humans to space and with the Starhopper he has really ramped up the public's ability to follow along with the project's progress.
At each step of the way, SpaceX and Musk have made all their achievements available to witness via social media. It is a totally new direction for space exploration in every sense of the word.