While the world is celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the moon landings, SpaceX is prepping for the next big thing—A Mars landing. SpaceX conducted static fire tests of Starhopper, which is a prototype for its Starship vehicle, meant to be launched towards Mars. The test took place in Texas, before its planned test launch, on Tuesday. These engine firings are commonplace at SpaceX for ensuring that all systems are working well.
This test lasted 5 seconds and seemed successful. However, orange flames were shown to engulf the vehicle, once the Raptor engine started firing. The crews started de-tanking and powered down Starhopper after this test fire took place. Onlookers stated that the silver prototype was unscathed, on Wednesday. While its exteriors look to have no problems, internal electronics and systems could have been affected, as crews were seen under the hopper, examining the area.
Starhopper is paving the way forward for Starship, which can carry 100 passengers. SpaceX hopes this will take cargo and humans one day to inter-planetary destinations. The Starhopper’s initial version used a Raptor engine, currently under development.
This next-gen engine, fueled by liquid oxygen & methane, has 2x the power of Merlin engines used in Falcon rockets. While Starhopper testing is still at its early stages, the prototype will have 3 Raptor engines powering it. Starship is scheduled to have 6. Super Heavy will have over 31 Raptors. Another prototype is being built in Florida, which the company hopes will yield a better design due to intra-office competition.
2 test flights have already been conducted by Starhopper. However, these tests involved the craft remaining tethered. The next flight will see Starhopper flying free. SpaceX CEO and founder had stated that the next leap might happen on the anniversary of Apollo moon landing mission, which fell on July 16. However, that target wasn’t possible, as SpaceX decided to conduct more preparations. After this fire test, the untethered hop may be put on hold until a complete data review is done.