Skip to Content
Space

SpaceX’s Starhopper rocket just went for its first test “hop”

Starhopper rocket
Starhopper rocket
Starhopper rocketSpaceX

The flight only lasted about 15 seconds—but it’s the crucial first test for SpaceX’s new spaceship.

The news: Last night, SpaceX conducted the first flight test of Starhopper, the nickname for the prototype of its Starship rocket. At its launch base in Boca Chica, Texas, the spacecraft flew about 60 feet up into the air, moved sideways, then landed upright in a cloud of smoke. These sorts of tests are referred to as “hops,” hence the spacecraft's nickname. In all, the test took about 15 seconds. Musk tweeted that he expects tests of the vehicle to happen “20km up in a few months.”

What is Starhopper? A squat vehicle that looks a bit like a water tower encased in stainless steel and is powered by SpaceX’s Raptor engine. It’s a prototype of the first stage of SpaceX’s planned Big Falcon Rocket and will have a payload capacity about three times that of the Falcon Heavy. It will eventually have a nose cone to protect the rocket’s payload, but SpaceX decided to do without it for this early test.

Shoot for the stars: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has big plans for Starhopper. The company plans to use the reusable vehicle to send people to Mars and the moon in the next decade.

A long way to go: The demonstration proved the vehicle’s basic launch and landing capabilities, but more such tests on Earth are needed before it ever gets into space. The first attempt to do the flight, on Wednesday, July 24, was aborted almost immediately, after the Raptor’s ignition caused a large fire near the launch site. Musk has said the system could perform the first crewed landing on the moon within the next four years, but it’s a highly ambitious time line given how much more work is still to be done.

Want to stay up to date with space tech news? Sign up for our newsletter, The Airlock.

Deep Dive

Space

supermassive black hole at center of Milky Way
supermassive black hole at center of Milky Way

This is the first image of the black hole at the center of our galaxy

The stunning image was made possible by linking eight existing radio observatories across the globe.

Mapping the atmosphere on Mars can help advance science on our own planet

The Emirates Mars Mission is monitoring and measuring the climate and atmosphere of the red planet, but this effort also helps promote and advance science at a national level.

SpaceX Starship
SpaceX Starship

How SpaceX’s massive Starship rocket might unlock the solar system—and beyond

With the first orbital test launch of Starship on the horizon, scientists are dreaming about what it might make possible— from trips to Neptune to planetary defense.

Photograph, Seine et Marne on march the 6th 2021 at night. Taurus constellation. On this image we can see the effect of the movements of artificial satellites through the sky. On the left we can see the planet Mars, on the right the famous stars cluster the Pleiades (M45). From the bottom right the luminous trail of the satellite STARLINK-1269, and from the top the luminous trail of the satellite STARLINK-1577
Photograph, Seine et Marne on march the 6th 2021 at night. Taurus constellation. On this image we can see the effect of the movements of artificial satellites through the sky. On the left we can see the planet Mars, on the right the famous stars cluster the Pleiades (M45). From the bottom right the luminous trail of the satellite STARLINK-1269, and from the top the luminous trail of the satellite STARLINK-1577

SpaceX just lost 40 satellites to a geomagnetic storm. There could be worse to come.

Increasing solar activity could play havoc with mega-constellations like Starlink in the coming years.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.