Last night (Thursday, July 25th), after multiple delays that were causing no shortage of stress and concern, Elon Musk's aerospace company succeeded in conducting their first untethered test with the Starhopper. The Starhopper rocket is a prototype of the "Starship" vehicle that Musk says will eventually fly up to 100 people to the moon and Mars at one time. After the rocket successfully lifted off from a SpaceX test facility in Boca Chica Beach, Texas, Musk declared "Starhopper flight successful" on Twitter and posted two videos, one showing the craft in flight via an engine cam and the other via a drone cam. The aerospace company plans to fly the same vehicle on more hop tests in the following months, taking things further.
The rocket prototype briefly rose by about 65.6ft (20m), moved to the side and landed. Unlike the first untethered test, which was aborted, SpaceX did not livestream Thursday's test, or make a comment immediately after. The test was a success and Starhopper "hit tether limits", demonstrating that its engine performed normally at 80 percent of its full capacity, as Musk pointed out in a tweet.
Musk has promised that the Starship (formerly known as BFR) will take over from SpaceX's established Falcon 9 and the newer Falcon Heavy platforms in the future.
"Yeah, big advantage of being made of high strength stainless steel: not bothered by a little heat!"
At about 11:45 pm Eastern time, Starhopper ignited its Raptor engines from its home base in Boca Chica Texas, lighting up the night sky and engulfing the chrome space craft in a shroud of thick smoke.
Starhopper is an initial prototype of the company's Starship next-generation reusable launch system.
Replying to someone on Twitter, Musk said Starhopper would attempt a 200 meter hop in "a week or two".
Musk has also said in recent days that he will give an update on the Starship launch system's design.
This is a very important milestone for the StarShip / StarHopper prototype, but it's also very high risk.
Thursday's untethered hop came about six hours after SpaceX launched its 18th robotic cargo mission to the International Space Station for NASA. A Falcon 9 rocket lofted a twice-flown Dragon capsule toward the orbiting lab, marking the first time that a Dragon has launched three times.