SpaceX launches “Starhopper” on dramatic test flight

SpaceX launched its sub-scale Starship “hopper” spacecraft on a brief unpiloted up-and-down test flight at the company’s Boca Chica, Texas, test facility Tuesday, a dramatic demonstration of rocket technology intended to pave the way to a new, more powerful heavy lift booster and, eventually, crew-carrying interplanetary spacecraft.

Running a day late because of a last-second technical glitch, the squat Starhopper’s powerful methane-fueled Raptor engine thundered to life at 6:02 p.m. EDT, pushing the stubby test vehicle straight up into a clear blue sky atop a jet of flame and a churning cloud of exhaust.


SpaceX said the new booster-Starship system eventually will replace the company’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets as well as the Cargo and Crew Dragon capsules used to deliver supplies and, eventually, astronauts to the International Space Station.

“SpaceX’s Starship and Super Heavy Rocket are designed to deliver satellites to Earth orbit and beyond, at a lower marginal cost per launch than our current Falcon vehicles,” the company says on its website.

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