SpaceX’s prototype of the Starship, called the SN6, completed a 150-metre ‘hop’ off the ground, after its predecessor, the SN5, also completed another 150 metre hop on August 4. The test run was a virtual copy of the SN5 hope, with SpaceX looking to fine-tune the components of its Starship.
SpaceX carried out the test launch at Boca Chica, Texas, and was a resounding success, making any potential launch to Mars with humans aboard more likely.
Following the event, SpaceX chief Elon Musk tweeted: “Turns out you can make anything fly haha.”
Starship will first be used to ferry humans to the Moon, and eventually Mars when the time comes.
SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said during a recent NASA-organised CLPS teleconference that Starship could be used to get humans to the Moon – which will be used as a jumping and refuelling point in the voyage to the Red Planet – in as little as three years.
Ms Shotwell said: “We are aiming to be able to drop Starship on the lunar surface in 2022.”
SpaceX has already tested SN7, intentionally blowing it up in a pressure test back in June.
The Starship is a staggering 164ft (50m) tall, 200-ton, or 1,400 tons when fully loaded.
The Starship prototype is constructed of eye-catching stainless steel instead than the carbon composite or aluminium-based materials.
This gives the SpaceX Starship “exceptional thermal properties” and a lower cost.
A refined Starship paired with a SpaceX Super Heavy booster stage will increase the rocket’s height to 387ft (117m) and capable of carrying 220,000 pounds.
The spaceship will also include the functions for “orbital refilling”, which would allow fuel to be transferred from spacecraft to spacecraft in Earth’s orbit – something which Mr Musk said is easier to do than docking at the International Space Station (ISS).
The South African-born billionaire has previously said: “This is one of the other critical pieces of the puzzle to establish a base on the moon or Mars.
“I think we should do our very best to become a multi-planet species and we should do it now.”
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Yesterday’s Starship test run was actually SpaceX’s second launch of the day, with the first being a Falcon 9 lift off from Florida which was carrying Starlink satellites into orbit.
Onboard were 60 Starlink satellites which were deployed once the rocket reached an altitude of 550 kilometres, joining the other 600-plus Starlink satellites already up there.
Starlink is SpaceX’s ambitious yet controversial plan to launch 12,000 satellites into Earth’s orbit, with the aim of supplying internet to every corner of the globe.
The first of the 12,000 satellites were launched in May 2019, and month by month Elon Musk’s firm has steadily been increasing its numbers in the skies.
Mr Musk has said Starlink needs to have about 800 satellites in orbit before it can begin to roll out initial services.
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