SpaceX's Starhopper hits new height in test flight

By Brooks Hays & Danielle Haynes

Aug. 27 (UPI) -- After an aborted attempt earlier this week, SpaceX's Starhopper test vehicle completed its highest flight yet Tuesday, taking off and landing at a launch site on the Texas coast.

In less than 2 minutes, the vehicle rose nearly 500 feet into the air, traveled to a landing pad 328 feet away and descended, landing in an upright position.


The Starhopper is the test prototype for SpaceX's Starship, a fully reusable second stage and space vehicle that will be integrated into the company's BFR "Super Heavy" rocket. Once in space, Starship will be used to launch and land from other planets and satellites -- from the moon to Mars, for example.

SpaceX attempted to launch the Starhopper on Monday, but officials aborted the test flight after the craft's methane-burning Raptor rocket engine failed to ignite.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter that a wiring problem inside the engine's igniter was to blame for the engine failure.

"Raptor uses dual redundant torch igniters," Musk tweeted. "Better long-term, but more finicky in development."

The test site from which the Starhopper launched is adjacent to Boca Chica Village, Texas, a small town 20 miles east of Brownsville. Residents were warned that a malfunction during the test flight could trigger an overpressure event strong enough to blow out windows in nearby homes.


The warning advised residents to go outside during the test flight.

"At a minimum, you must exit your home or structure and be outside of any building on your avoid or minimize the risk of injury," officials warned residents, according to the Brownsville Herald.

Starhopper made its initial untethered flight, rising 65 feet into the air, last month. Flaming debris from that flight ignited brush fires the scored 100 acres in South Texas' Las Palomas Wildlife Management Refuge.

Tuesday's test flight will be the last for this particular prototype. Later this year, SpaceX will begin testing larger prototypes at suborbital heights.

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