SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted that the igniters for the vehicle’s raptor engine needed to be inspected Monday after the failed attempt. But everything looked picture perfect during Tuesday’s test flight.
But even as the company gets off the ground in Texas, a second team in Florida is working on its own starship.
SpaceX is also in the process of building a second starship at its facility in Cocoa, Florida.
The Starhopper vehicle and its super heavy booster, is a reusable rocket system being developed by SpaceX for crewed and uncrewed missions to the moon and Mars.
“It’s amazing to watch what’s going on out there,” said Dale Ketcham, with Space Florida. “A lot of driven people doing hard work, but you can see the results.”
Musk was recently in Central Florida to check on the progress himself.
Space Florida is doing all it can to ensure as much Starship activity as possible will happen on the Space Coast.
“We’re certainly working very hard to see that one of those locations, if not the only one, is here in Florida,” Ketcham said. “That would be another huge development for the Space Coast and the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.”
Yesterday (Tuesday, Aug. 26th), SpaceX conducted the second untethered test of its Starship Hopper – and nailed it! For this test, the prototype test …
Yesterday (Tuesday, Aug. 26th), SpaceX conducted the second untethered test of its Starship Hopper – and nailed it! For this test, the prototype test vehicle took off from the Boca Chica test facility, ascended to an altitude of 150 m (~500 ft) and then landed again safely. This comes just a month after the first successful hop test and brings the company one step closer to tests using their full-scale prototype.
The entire event was live-streamed by SpaceX and countless spaceflight enthusiasts on social media. While the second hop test was originally scheduled to take place on Monday, Aug. 25th, the flight was scrubbed mere milliseconds before the Raptor main engine ignited. According to Musk, this was due to a wiring/connector issue with the engines torch igniters.
“Raptor uses dual redundant torch igniters,” he tweeted. “Better long-term, but more finicky in development.” He also stated that once they were inspected, they would “try again tomorrow same time.”
True to his word, the ground crews at Boca Chica made their second attempt on Tuesday, Aug. 27th, at 05:00 PM local time (03:00 PST; 06:00 EST). As you can see from the video below, the test went off without a hitch, despite the presence of high winds around the test site.
The flight lasted almost a full minute and saw the Hopper reach an altitude of 150 meters, move laterally, and then set down at a second landing pad nearby. This flight ceiling was consistent with the revised permit issued by the FAA that specified that “SpaceX may operate the Starship Hopper Vehicle for one flight without further FAA authorization, to a nominal altitude of 150 meters AGL or less.”
Originally, Musk was hoping to build on the 20 m hop test by flying the Hopper to a ceiling of 200 m (~650 ft). This may or may not have been in response to concerns raised by the local authorities about possible damage in the event of a malfunction.
These concerns led to the Cameron County Sheriff’s department telling residents of the nearby Boca Chica village to leave their homes for the duration of the test flight. Not the area, mind you, but their homes, for fear that a mishap could cause an overpressure event that would result in all the windows shattering in the area.
Concerns for public safety may be why SpaceX had increased its liability insurance exponentially, from $3 million to $100 million. It also may be related to the fact that during the previous test, the engine burn resulted in a small brush fire, which the ground crews were unable to fully quell on their own, prompting them to ask for the assistance of the local fire department.
That test, which took place on July 25th, consisted of the Hopper flying to an altitude of 20 meters (~65 feet) and diverting laterally before making a powered descent and landing. This successful test also occurred after a brief delay, this one caused by a fire (similar to one that happened about a week before during a static fire test) that began shortly after engine ignition.
Whereas the previous test was largely obscured by smoke and flames when observed from the ground, the Hopper was able to ascend high enough this time around that the vehicle and the Raptor’s beautiful, multicolored flame trail was visible for all to see. The flight was even more spectacular when viewed from above, thanks to the drone SpaceX had on-site to capture footage of the test.
Elon congratulated the SpaceX team via twitter about a half-hour after the successful test. He was also sure to add a picture of the Hopper ascending above what looks like a Martian surface, with the caption “One day Starship will land on the rusty sands of Mars “. This was followed by the witty observation that the Starship Hopper (which has been compared to a “water tower” in the past) looks like “R2D2’s Dad”.
This all brings SpaceX one step closer to conducting flight tests using their two orbital-class Starship prototypes – the Starship Mk. 1 and Mk. 2 – which are finishing being assembled at the company’s facilities in Boca Chica and Cape Canaveral, Florida. Based on previous statements made by Musk, these prototypes could be ready to conduct suborbital test flights any day now.
Timetables are always tricky when dealing with spaceflight and space exploration, and progress is always incremental. But the strides SpaceX has taken in recent months are nothing if not impressive and certainly very encouraging. At this rate, we could very well be seeing commercial missions to the Moon and Mars during the next decade.
On Tuesday afternoon a SpaceX Dragon capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near Long Beach, California, after completing its third mission …
The capsule launched into its third trip to space on July 25 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Carried by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, it reached the space station two days later as they floated above southern Chile on July 27, according to a SpaceXpress release. The successful rendezvous marked SpaceX‘s eighteenth Commercial Resupply Services mission to the flying laboratory.
Before setting the new record, Dragon previously broke ground as the first commercial vehicle to dock with the ISS. SpaceX, a pet project of Tesla founder Elon Musk, is a leader in the blossoming for-profit space exploration industry.
Among the cargo returning aboard the Dragon capsule was a robot called CIMON, a “smart speaker” built to assist astronauts in their research, kind of like an advanced Amazon Alexa. Here on Earth, NASA will now examine the returning cargo. The bounty in Dragon’s cargo hold also includes the results of experiments growing moss in microgravity environments and the findings of NASA’s Goodyear tire investigation, which looks at the effects of gravity on silica.
Experiments on tires in the sky could have real impacts here on earth. As NASA explained in a statement on the Dragon splashdown, “A better understanding of silica morphology and the relationship between silica structure and its properties could provide improvements for increased fuel efficiency, which would reduce transportation costs and help to protect Earth’s environment.”
On the other side of the stratosphere, Dragon is reducing costs and expanding possibilities in space travel.
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SpaceX has made another leap in its plans to head to Mars. On Tuesday, the company’s unmanned Starhopper rocket rose roughly 150 metres off the …
SpaceX has made another leap in its plans to head to Mars.
On Tuesday, the company’s unmanned Starhopper rocket rose roughly 150 metres off the ground in Brownsville, Texas, ending up on an adjacent landing pad. The entire flight lasted just 57 seconds.
“It almost looked like a cartoon or something,” nearby resident Cheryl Stevens told Reuters just after Starhopper’s Tuesday flight. “After all the buildup, it was kind of nice to actually see it happen.”
This is the third test of the glistening, retro-style spacecraft. The last one was in July, when it rose 20 metres into the air., marking the first time the rocket rose without being tethered to the ground.
Starhopper is a mini version of SpaceX’s planned Starship that will eventually replace the Falcon 9 rockets currently used to launch satellites as well as bring supplies to the International Space Station. The advantage of Starship will be its ability to launch larger payloads and even a crew to the moon or Mars.
The whole plan is to launch the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket), which will be a reusable spacecraft, beyond Earth. Starship will be the second stage of the rocket, while the first stage will be called the Super Heavy.
Unlike Starhopper, Starship will have windows.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also plans to use Starship for travel on Earth.
SpaceX has big plans for the Starship that include launching deep space missions and colonizing Mars. Before it can do any of that, it has to finish …
SpaceX has big plans for the Starship that include launching deep space missions and colonizing Mars. Before it can do any of that, it has to finish designing the vehicle. The final Starship will be a sci-fi masterpiece of stainless steel, but the Starhopper is its stubby precursor. This prototype rocket is still plenty sci-fi, though. In its latest and final test, the Starhopper successfully hovered hundreds of feet in the air and landed at the company’s Boca Chica test facility.
The Starhopper is the first vehicle to use SpaceX Raptor engine. The final Starship will have six Raptor engines, but Starhopper only has one. That’s still enough to lift it above the dusty Texas landscape and set it down gently. The first Starhopper tests took place in the spring of this year, but they were tethered. The rocket flew just above the ground before landing. In July, Starhopper had its first real flight, rising to an altitude of 65 feet (almost 20 meters) before landing.
Yesterday’s test marks the most impressive achievement for the Starhopper, but it’s also its last flight. The rocket lifted off just after 5PM local time, flying up to an altitude of 500 feet (150 meters) and hanging there for a few seconds. Then, it floated back down to land on a nearby launch pad. The entire operation took just 57 seconds.
This test vehicle is basically an analog of the old “Grasshopper” prototype that preceded Falcon 9 landings. Starhopper has done its job and now passes the torch to SpaceX’s orbital prototypes, known as Starship Mk1 and Mk2. SpaceX is currently building Mk1 at Boca Chica and Mk2 in Florida. Both rockets will look more like the promised sci-fi Starship, but they might not have the full complement of Raptor engines. CEO Elon Musk has promised at least three, though. They’ll need at least that to reach orbit.
The test launches of Mk1 and Mk2 will give SpaceX that data it needs to finish the first fully operational Starships, which could begin flying as soon as 2021. SpaceX also needs to work on the first stage launch platform for the Starship, which is known as Super Heavy. The first major test of the Starship will be the lunar orbit mission, financed by Japanese fashion magnate Yusaku Maezawa around 2023. Musk has talked about sending people to Mars as early as the mid-2020s, but that seems a bit overly optimistic.