Slash Boxes

SoylentNews is people

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday July 10 2019, @12:55AM   Printer-friendly
from the history-in-the-making dept.

SpaceX's Starhopper Prototype to Make 1st Untethered Hop Soon, Musk Says:

The company has apparently fixed an issue with the vehicle's Raptor engine.

SpaceX is getting ready to let Starhopper off its leash.

Starhopper, a prototype for the company's future Mars-colonizing Starship vehicle, has conducted two brief test hops to date. Both occurred in early April at SpaceX's Boca Chica test site near Brownsville, Texas, and both employed a tether, which kept Starhopper very close to the ground (for safety's sake).

SpaceX had apparently been holding off on taking the next big testing step — removing the tether and letting Starhopper fly freely — until it could fix an issue with the vehicle's powerful, next-generation Raptor engine. But that problem seems to be solved, company founder and CEO Elon Musk announced via Twitter over the weekend.

Exciting progress in Boca! Hopper almost ready to hover. Based on tonight's test, looks like 600 Hz Raptor vibration problem is fixed. July 7, 2019

Later that day, Musk sent out another tweet:

Will do Starship presentation a few weeks after Hopper hovers, so prob late July. If that timing works, free LJ chips for all present! July 7, 2019

Watching the progress of SpaceX and its rocket developments reminds me of the thrills of watching NASA's Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo development efforts. The 50th anniversary of the July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 landing on the moon is fast approaching. Were I on the SpaceX team, I know I would be doing everything I could to try and get the Hopper flying by then! Any bets?

Original Submission

Related Stories

SpaceX Launches CRS-18 Using Twice-Flown Booster, Starhopper Finally Flies 9 comments

SpaceX Falcon 9 booster nails landing in lead-up to next NASA-sponsored reuse milestone

SpaceX has nailed its 24th Falcon booster reuse and 44th Falcon booster landing with Falcon 9 B1056's flawless Landing Zone-1 recovery, setting the booster up to become the first SpaceX rocket NASA has flown on three times.

According to, NASA had already moved from a conservative "maybe" to a much firmer "yes, but..." on the second-reuse question, pending – of course – the successful completion of B1056's second launch and landing. As of now, the Block 5 booster has indeed successfully completed its second orbital-class mission, setting itself up for a milestone NASA reuse that could happen as early as December 2019 on CRS-19, Dragon 1's second-to-last planned International Space Station (ISS) resupply mission.

SpaceX's Starhopper nails first untethered flight as CEO Elon Musk teases next test

Starhopper has completed its first untethered flight ever, simultaneously a small step for the awkward prototype and a giant leap for SpaceX's Starship/Super Heavy program as the next-gen launch vehicle is carried into a new phase: flight testing.

Despite the spectacular and reportedly successful hover and divert test, Starhopper's powerful Raptor engine appears to have started a significant fire, placing SpaceX's Starhopper pad in a precarious position per the fire's apparent adjacency to full liquid oxygen tanks. Ironically, despite Starhopper's seeming predilection as of late towards catching itself on fire, the large rocket testbed appears to be entirely unscorched as a brush fire burns around a few hundred feet distant.

[...] According to Elon Musk, the SpaceX CEO will present an update on the company's progress designing, building, and testing Starship and Super Heavy soon after Starhopper's first successful flight, meaning it could potentially happen within the next week or two. Additionally, Musk deemed Starhopper's July 25th flight a success and indicated that SpaceX would attempt to put Starhopper through a more ambitious 200m (650 ft) hop in a week or two, continuing what is expected to be an increasingly arduous serious of tests for the prototype.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Wednesday July 10 2019, @01:33AM (3 children)

    by takyon (881) <> on Wednesday July 10 2019, @01:33AM (#865252) Journal

    Starhopper is basically a shiny test platform for the Raptor engine. Not that much to do with the final Starship design, and the hopping will involve none of the complicated procedures necessary for it to work (like in-orbit refueling, re-entry with one shielded side facing the atmosphere in order to reduce velocity, re-orientation and landing, and giant wings/legs that move). So if the Raptor engine wasn't working properly yet due to vibration issues (albeit under torture test conditions []), it doesn't make sense to do a hover test. Maybe that has finally been resolved and we'll see some hovering soon.

    Two orbital Starship prototypes are in production, one in Boca Chica and the other in Cocoa, Florida, where there was a small fire that took out some equipment:

    SpaceX’s orbital Florida Starship yard suffers damage after catching fire []

    They are starting to build/prep launch pads for it:

    SpaceX’s Starship/Super Heavy rocket needs a launch pad and work is already starting []

    And here's a bonus embarrassment for Northrop Grumman:

    SpaceX’s flight-proven Falcon 9 snags NASA launch contract, second of 2019 []

    IXPE was originally planned to launch on Orbital ATK (now Northrop Grumman’s) Pegasus XL but NASA never followed through with a launch contract. The move to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is likely related to the extremely disruptive and expensive launch delays NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) spacecraft has suffered at the hands of its Pegasus XL rocket. Capable of launching less than 450 kg (1000 lb) to low Earth orbit, Pegasus XL has been lucky to launch annually over the last decade or so and carries a price tag of no less than $50M-$60M today.

    [...] Again, for the small-scale performance of Pegasus XL, the rocket still carries a price tag of more than $50M – NASA’s ICON launch contract was valued at more than $56M. Conscious of this, SpaceX has managed to sway NASA to launch the small IXPE spacecraft on a flight-proven Falcon 9 at a cost of just $50.3 million, easily the lowest Falcon 9 launch contract cost ever publicized.

    Falcon 9 can launch over 10x the payload to LEO (reusable mode) for about the same price.

    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 10 2019, @02:31AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 10 2019, @02:31AM (#865261)

      Northrop should have stuck with making Lays potato chip vans.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by khallow on Wednesday July 10 2019, @12:44PM (1 child)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday July 10 2019, @12:44PM (#865356) Journal

      Conscious of this, SpaceX has managed to sway NASA to launch the small IXPE spacecraft on a flight-proven Falcon 9 at a cost of just $50.3 million, easily the lowest Falcon 9 launch contract cost ever publicized.

      SpaceX charging NASA for another subsidized $100 mil launch, I see. \sarc