SpaceX's Starship Prototype 'Test Hop' Brings Us Closer to Mars

"Mars is looking real," Elon Musk tweeted after the successful 'hop' test.
Chris Young

SpaceX took a giant leap towards making us an interplanetary species on Tuesday evening by shooting Starship into the air in its latest "hop test" before undergoing a controlled landing.

The company almost reached 500 feet (150 meters) with the "hop" of its SN5 Starship prototype at its Boca Chica development facility at 5 p.m. PT.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk lauded the achievement as taking us one crucial step closer to Mars.


Mars here we come

Starship, the nearly nine-story tall spacecraft that currently looks remarkably like a Duracell battery, flew using a single Raptor engine. It gradually rose into the sky before returning to the ground and landing upright. 

Watch remarkable footage of the "hop", posted by SpaceX, from outside and inside the prototype Starship below:

This much-anticipated low-altitude "hop" test comes after several prototype failures, most of which occurred during pressurization tests. Traveling 500 feet is, of course, only a fraction of the more than 35 million miles SpaceX and Musk aim to take the crewed Starship to Mars.

This is, however, a big step in the right direction and continues SpaceX's successful run after having shown their Crew Dragon capsule can carry humans into space with the launch and return of the Demo-2 mission.

Not the finished article yet

Though SN5 performed a relatively small flight on Tuesday, it is designed to be able to perform an orbital flight. Much like the Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 before it, however, it must undergo rigorous testing before it can get to that stage. That's what Tuesday's test hop was all about.

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The craft, which is approximately 98 feet (30 meters) tall, is very much in the prototype stage. While the prototype has one Raptor engine, in July last year, Elon Musk said that the final Starship will have an eye-watering 41 Raptor engines. The final iteration will also have a nose cone, fins, and a Crew Dragon attached when traveling through space.

It is amazing to think that such a comparatively small flight is at the beginning of a journey that will eventually take humans to Mars. Stay posted for all of the latest on SpaceX and space travel.

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