After SpaceX started the prototype engines last week without the Starship getting off the ground, it was time for the real thing tonight. The rocket engines propelled the prototype to about 150 meters into the air. The Starship turned around a bit, but landed neatly on Earth a short time later.
Starship takes flight pic.twitter.com/IWvwcA05hl
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 5, 2020
It is the first successful short and low test flight – or ‘hop’ – for this prototype: Starship SN5. And more will follow, Musk said. Several more of these ‘hops’ will be undertaken in the coming weeks. If those test flights go well, the prototype will be fitted with pilot flaps, after which flights to a higher altitude are also possible.
We’ll do several short hops to smooth out launch process, then go high altitude with body flaps
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 5, 2020
Starship is the new showpiece of SpaceX, with which the company wants to transport people to the moon and ultimately Mars. The transport system actually consists of two parts: a spacecraft (also referred to as a Starship) and a Super Heavy rocket booster. The booster – equipped with more than 30 raptor motors developed by SpaceX – allows Starship to escape Earth’s gravity and returns to Earth in one piece after launch, after which it can be used again. The Starship itself is also equipped with 6 raptor engines. Starship must ultimately be able to take as many as a hundred people on long-term, interplanetary flights at the same time. “Starship offers an affordable way to transport freight and people; essential for building lunar bases and Mars cities, ”said SpaceX.
In recent years, a lot of work has been done on Starship and a lot of experiments have been carried out. Initially, these experiments used so-called Starhoppers: a smaller version of the Starship, designed to practice launch and landing. At the same time, several prototypes of the ‘real’ Starship were also built and tested. Those experiments did not go without a struggle; several prototypes broke down during the experiments. SpaceX identified the weaknesses and strengths of the design in a short time and it all results in the development of Starship SN5: the prototype that last night – propelled by 1 raptor engine – took to the skies.
Although there is still a lot of work to be done, every successful flight still brings us a step closer to Mars, Musk says on Twitter.
Today marks the beginning of a new era, even though this is a small step. We are a giant leap closer to mars than we were yesterday, the future of interplanetary travel is upon us. MARS HERE WE COME!🔥🚀 pic.twitter.com/PM73bTBS5k
— Austin Barnard🚀 (@austinbarnard45) August 5, 2020
We will undoubtedly hear more from Starship soon. The transport system is undergoing rapid development. That is also necessary. Because already in 2023, SpaceX wants to use Starship to make Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa circle the moon for a few laps. And that is only the prelude to more. Earlier this year, Musk announced via Twitter that he wants to build about 1000 Starships and use them for colonizing Mars. By organizing several flights a day in the short period in which Mars is relatively easy and accessible from Earth, thousands of people could be deposited on Mars in a short time. When exactly those first manned Mars flights should take place is still unclear and depends largely on how the prototype Starships will fare in the near future.
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