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The prototype of the SpaceX Starhopper rocket takes a giant leap for Elon Musk




Alexandra Able / CNET GIF

After a few false starts, the prototype of Elon Musk's Mars rocket made a spectacular but short flight on Tuesday.

The single-engine version of SpaceX Starship's Starhopper soared nearly 150 feet above the Texas coast before returning for a soft landing. SpaceX broadcasts an event that takes part in what looks a bit like a small water tower or perhaps a giant R2-D2 rising over the Gulf Coast in less than a minute.

"Congratulations to the SpaceX Team !!" Musk Tweets.

Starhopper is the first prototype test for a next-generation spacecraft that Musk plans to use to send humans around the moon and Mars over the next decade.

After the flight, several Twitter observers noted that the bunker seemed to lose some of its parts during its short jump.

Starhopper's first attempt at a long jump was interrupted at the last second on Monday. The test had already been canceled earlier in August. Musk cited a wiring problem or a lighter connector as a reason for the delay on Monday.


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Prior to the scheduled test hours for Monday and Tuesday, residents near Boca Chica, Texas, the facility were warned that a potential malfunction could release pressure waves strong enough to break windows in the area. Locals were advised to vacate all buildings and bring their pets outside during the test window to avoid the risk of flying glass.

The small test version, which resembles something like a flying water tower (as noted Musk himself ), previously made a short hover at 20 meters (66 feet) high after dark on July 25.

Musk said that this would be the last test flight for this particular prototype and that it would be converted into a test bench for Starship's Raptor engines.

With the latest Starhopper test in the books, Musk said his next move would be to give a presentation on updating the world on Starship design and any changes to his plans for the largest SpaceX rocket so far. Musk said the ultimate Starship will have a total of six or seven engines and will be paired with a new SpaceX Super Heavy rocket, creating a launch system to rival the Saturn V rocket that transports NASA astronauts to the moon.

In previous years, Musk has shared plans to use a super-heavy launcher (formerly known as BFR or Big Falcon Rocket) to help install Mars, send artists on trips around the moon, and even provide transcontinental flights through Earth's orbit.

Originally published August 26.
Update, August 27, 3:09 pm PT: Adds that Starhopper has made his hop.
Update, August 27, 4:01 pm PT:
Adds more details to successful launch.


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