SpaceX's Starship SN5 prototype soars on 1st test flight! 'Mars is looking real,' Elon Musk says
SpaceX just flew a full-size prototype of its Starship Mars-colonizing spacecraft for the first time ever.
The Starship SN5 test vehicle took to the skies for about 40 seconds this afternoon (Aug. 4) at SpaceX's facilities near the South Texas village of Boca Chica, performing a small hop that could end up being a big step toward human exploration of the Red Planet.
"Mars is looking real," Musk tweeted shortly after today's test flight.
The weather cooperated for the launch of NASA's newest Mars rover, a mission that if delayed could have meant a wait of over two years.
The stainless-steel SN5 rose into the air at 7:57 p.m. EDT (2357 GMT; 6:57 p.m. local Texas time). It traveled sideways a bit during the brief, uncrewed flight, which Musk had previously said would target a maximum altitude of about 500 feet (150 meters). The spacecraft deployed its landing legs as planned and stuck the landing.
The SN5 is just the second Starship prototype to get off the ground, and the first to do so in nearly a year. A squat and stubby vehicle called Starhopper took a few brief flights in the summer of 2019, retiring after acing its own 500-foot-high hop that August.
Ending this flight lull fell to the SN5 after several of its predecessors were destroyed during pressurization or engine-firing tests.
Starhopper and the SN5 both feature a single Raptor, SpaceX's powerful next-generation engine. The final Starship vehicle will sport six Raptors, stand about 165 feet (50 m) tall and be capable of carrying up to 100 people, Musk has said.
The operational Starship will launch from Earth atop a gigantic rocket called Super Heavy, which will have 31 Raptors of its own. Both vehicles will be fully and rapidly reusable, potentially slashing the cost of spaceflight enough to make crewed trips to and from the moon, Mars and other deep-space destinations economically feasible, Musk has said.
Super Heavy will land back on Earth after each liftoff; Starship will be powerful enough on its own to get itself off Mars and the moon, both of which have much weaker gravitational pulls than our planet does.Report a Typo
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Beta's flooding rainfall could cut off some communities for days
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