It was the very first time the experimental craft, nicknamed “Starhopper”, a flew free without being tethered to the ground.
SpaceX aimed to lift the spacecraft about 65 feet into the air before gently landing it nearby- what was SpaceX’s called a “hop test”. It’s unclear exactly how high the craft flew. Footages were captured by reporters and were displayed at the South Texas launch site. The footages showed fire and smoke erupting from Starhopper’s huge Raptor rocket engine, obscuring the vehicle from view.
Elon Musk, who is the CEO of SpaceX, said the flight was a success.
“Water towers *can* fly,” Musk joked in a tweet, referencing Starhopper’s likeness to a cylindrical water tank. He conjointly shared views of the launch that were captured by a nearby drone and a camera near the Raptor engine. Musk tweeted that SpaceX will next attempt a 200 meter, or 650 foot, hop test “in a week or two.”
Starhopper’s successful run came one day after a hop attempt was aborted three seconds after the Raptor engine fired up. The craft never left the ground, and stray flames appeared to shoot out from the top of the vehicle, but there was no serious damage done. Musk also revealed that the hop test was called off because the fuel was “colder than expected,” causing an issue with pressure levels inside the massive vehicle.
Reportedly, SpaceX is intended to be an early precursor to deep-space exploration rocket referred to as Starship, and Elon Musk has said rapid development of the technology is a top priority for SpaceX.
The latest design for Starship, which was earlier referred to as BFR, shows it riding into orbit atop the most powerful rocket booster ever built. SpaceX hopes to use the launch system to deliver extremely huge loads of satellites into orbit, and eventually to shuttle humans out into the solar system to explore and colonize Mars.