SpaceX also flew a full-size version of the Starship Mars spacecraft for the first time ever.
The Starship SN5 research vehicle reached the sky for around 40 seconds this afternoon (Aug. 4) at the SpaceX facility in the South Texas village of Boca Chica, conducting a quick hop that might wind up being a major step towards human colonization of the Red Planet.
“Mars looks incredible,” Musk tweeted shortly after today’s test flight.
The stainless-steel SN5 rose to the surface at 7:57 p.m. EDT (2357 GMT; 6:57 p.m. local Texas time) and flew a little sideways during a short, uncrewed flight, which Musk had previously claimed would be at a maximum altitude of around 500 feet (150 metres). The spacecraft deployed its landing legs as expected and delayed the landing.
The SN5 is only the second Starship project to get off the ground, and the first to do so in about a year. In the summer of 2019, a squat and stubby machine named Starhopper took a few short hops, retiring after acing its own 500-foot-high hop in August.
The culmination of this flight delay came to SN5 after most of its predecessors had been lost during pressurization or engine-fired tests.
All Starhopper and SN5 use a single Raptor, a versatile next-generation SpaceX rocket. The final Starship spacecraft would feature six Raptors, weigh about 165 feet (50 m) tall and be capable of holding up to 100 passengers, Musk added.
The operating Starship will fire from Earth a giant rocket named Super Heavy, which will have 31 Raptors of its own. Both spacecraft would be completely and easily reusable, theoretically reducing the cost of spaceflight enough to make trips by the crew to and from the Moon, Mars, and other deep-sea destinations commercially viable, Musk said.
Super Heavy will land back on Earth with each take-off; Starship will be powerful enough on its own to travel away from Mars and the moon, both of which have much weaker gravitational forces than our planet does.