A giant hop for Elon Musk as he tests SpaceX’s rocket Starhopper in second attempt over Texas
A few days ago, the residents of Texas were warned of possible massive pressure waves which could shatter windows. The reason? SpaceX’s launch of its single-engine rocket. The residents were even told to vacate houses along with their pets for safety reasons.
Then, on Tuesday evening, billionaire space enthusiast Elon Musk conducted the final test for Space X’s Starhopper rocket which successfully hopped to 152 m off the ground, and then travelled approximately 650 ft (198m) to the right, lasting 57 seconds after which it came back for a soft landing at a nearby launching pad.
Why the test was so special was because of the possibility of human travel to the moon and Mars. According to Elon Musk, this prototype will lay the path for the development of future rockets that could take humans to Mars and the Moon in the coming decades.
This rocket Starhopper is a single version of SpaceX Starship. Space enthusiasts felt it looked like a water tower, or even a giant R2-D2.
The second attempt
The test which occurred after a few false starts on Tuesday was to be conducted on Monday but delayed several times, with an attempt aborted within 0.8 seconds left in the countdown due to an issue with the rocket’s ignitors.
Wasting no time, Elon tweeted saying,
“Igniters need to be inspected. We will try again tomorrow same time.”
He later tweeted saying,
“The cause was probably a wiring or connector issue.” Overnight, he responded to a Twitter user who questioned why there weren’t any sensors or other checks on devices – which are crucial for a rocket’s launch – to verify.
In case of any possible fatal accidents or an explosion, SpaceX had to raise its liability insurance from $3 million to $100 million, and limit the height of the flight to only 150 meters according to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) launch agreement, reported Space.com
Musk’s company had previously tried to launch the 18-meter-tall Starhopper with two short, tethered hops earlier this year too. Another test was also conducted in which the rocket reached a height of 20 metres.
The future is Mars-bound
With the successful test of the prototype, SpaceX will build a larger prototype called Starship Mk 1, which will use three Raptor rocket engines, and will be launched from the Texas site. The engine will be powered by liquid oxygen and cryogenic liquid methane and will also be integrated with future heavy rockets that will have 35 raptor engines, besides Starship.
Another version of the prototype is under development in Florida called Starship Mk 2. If everything goes as per plan, the prototypes, Mk1 and Mk2 will pave the way for Starship flights, which will be operational in early 2021.
The Starhopper rocket prototype (Image: Twitter)
According to Popular Mechanics, the upcoming Starship will be capable of carrying up to 100 people to the Moon, and even Mars.
Once the programme is operational, it will deploy communication satellites after which the passenger trip would follow shortly, reports Space.com.
(Edited by Suruchi Kapur Gomes)