A gleaming SpaceX Starship concept launched Thursday (Sept. 3) into the sky above southern Texas in a brief, uncrewed test flight of a rocket intended for the future moon and Mars trips.
The cylindrical Starship SN6 spacecraft, which looks more like a grain silo with a rocket engine, soared high into the air above SpaceX’s Boca Chica test site, hovered for a few moments, and then set down on stubby landing legs, according to a video of the event recorded by tourism site SPadre.com and NASASpaceflight.com.
The flight appeared to be similar to an Aug. 4 test of SpaceX’s Starship SN5 model, which on that hop reached an altitude of about 500 feet (150 meters).
The SN6 launch was SpaceX’s second flight of the day. For SpaceX’s mega constellation, the company launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 Starlink internet satellites into orbit; The project took off at 8:46 am from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Pad 39A in Florida. (1246 GMT) EDT.
Starship SN6 is the latest in a line of prototypes SpaceX has used the technologies needed for a huge, fully reusable launch vehicle for deep-space missions as testbeds.
Some of those designs exploded by mistake, some by design, while others, such as the SN5 prototype and a smaller-scale “Starhopper” craft, which conducted several test flights last year, made real rocket-powered hops.
Last week the SN6 prototype test-fired its Raptor rocket engine setting the stage for the test flight today.
SpaceX’s Starship plans call for a 165-foot-tall (50 m) Starship spacecraft design and a massive rocket called Super Heavy that will blast the spaceship off Earth.
Starship SN6 hop! That was AWESOME 🤩🚀 pic.twitter.com/Lt1DIkGBbz
— SPadre (@SpacePadreIsle) September 3, 2020
Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, has recently unveiled a series of emerging prototypes for the Starship launch system.
The new concept, announced in September 2019, calls for a Starship capable of carrying up to 100 people using six on-vehicle Raptor engines and a further 31 on the Super Heavy booster.
Both vehicles would be reusable, with the entire stack possibly being launched from a platform built on the sea, Musk said.
Musk has said a big target for prototypes of the Starship SN is to attempt a test at an altitude of 12 miles (20 kilometers).
The single-engine SN6 won’t go that far, but if everything goes according to plan one of its successors will.