On Thursday, July 25th, just one day after an aborted test, SpaceX's Starship prototype, Starhopper, briefly hovered above the ground before landing safely back on the ground.
It was the test vehicle's first successful untethered flight. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has since tweeted what's coming next for Starship tests, that he ultimately hopes will help get us to Mars.
Getting us to Mars
SpaceX's Starship project still has a long way to go before it can get us to Mars and the Moon.
To put the tests — and the ultimate power of Starship — in perspective, last night's test saw one specially made Raptor engine used to hover the craft briefly. Elon Musk has announced that the final design, including SuperHeavy, will include roughly 41 Raptor engines.
Starhopper got its name from the fact that it is being used for "hop" tests. This test was only ever meant to go a short distance above the ground — in order to demonstrate the craft's precise takeoff and landing capability.
"Water towers can fly"
Elon Musk announced the successful test flight on Twitter and released engine cam footage showing the craft leaving the ground:
Engine cam pic.twitter.com/3cWHU50353— e^👁🥧 (@elonmusk) July 26, 2019
SpaceX plans to carry out more test hops until they are satisfied they can truly unleash Starship and fly it into orbit. Preparations are going ahead for the moment in which they can take tests to the next level.
As per the Verge, SpaceX is in the process of building two Starship prototypes that will fly a lot higher than Starhopper. Each one will reportedly be fitted with three Raptor engines.
Ars Technica reports that Musk hopes one of the prototypes can reach an altitude of 20 or 30 km by the end of this year.
Musk has also previously suggested a presentation about Starship's near future might be coming very soon:
We changed the design quite a bit. More about this in late July.— e^👁🥧 (@elonmusk) July 12, 2019
In the meantime, we know that SpaceX's immediate next plans are to perform a slightly higher "hop" test with their current Starhopper prototype.
200m hop in a week or two— e^👁🥧 (@elonmusk) July 26, 2019
One step at a time. You can't rush going to Mars.