Starhopper, the rocket completed its first free-flying test hop at SpaceX’s Boca Chica showing ground in South Texas late Thursday, one day after a vulnerability forced it to cancel an earlier attempt. Starhopper burned its single Raptor engine moments before midnight, apparently firing long enough to fulfill the test’s primary goal, which SpaceX founder Elon Musk had said could be a straight hop 65 ft (20 meters) up and down.
“Starhopper test flight successful, Water towers *can* fly haha!!,” Musk wrote on Twitter after the test.
Starhopper is a testbed carrier made to test out essential technologies for SpaceX’s planned Starship and Super Heavy spacecraft, an intended fully reusable launch system capable of launching more payload than NASA’s gigantic Saturn V moon rocket. Starship is designed to hold as much as 100 people at a time and will be SpaceX’s go-to spacecraft for eventual journeys to the moon and Mars, Musk has mentioned. It could even be used for a point-to-point trip around Earth, he’s added.
During Thursday night’s check, Starhopper briefly lit up its Boca Chica proving floor, only to be rapidly covered by its exhaust plume as it surged and landed in less than a minute. Flames from the test hop lighted a fire close to Starhopper that stayed burning well after the check itself.
The test hop Thursday night adopted an aborted attempt on Wednesday when Starhopper fired its liquid methane and liquid oxygen fueled Raptor engine for merely three seconds before shutting down.