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Starship Takes One Giant Leap

After months of testing, booms, and scrubs, a giant grain silo-looking rocket took its first leap from the beaches of South Texas, and it was done by none other than Starship. This 150-meter hop took place 11 months after Starhopper’s experimental flight and was vital to test the technology of Starship, more specifically the methane-powered Raptor Engine.


Starhopper 150 meter launch, August 27, 2019.

Starship is SpaceX’s golden egg rocket, being capable of sending more than one hundred tons to low Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars, and one hundred people to Mars. The company’s CEO, Elon Musk, claims that the cost per launch of Starship will “be like $2 million.” Due to the rocket’s high capability to orbit and low cost, it’s expected that Starship will ultimately replace SpaceX’s current fleet of rockets and capsules, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon.


Starship Mark 1 suffers a pressurizing failure during testing. Credit: Labpadre (Youtube)

On November 20, 2019, the first prototype of Starship, Mark 1, suffered a terrible anomaly during a pressurization test, releasing liquid methane and liquid oxygen. Since then, SpaceX has built more iterations of the vehicle, but SN5 is the sole Starship to have completed all of the tests required for a low altitude flight. And on August 4, 2020, SN5 completed a pivotal test to one-day landing humans on Mars, a 150-meter hop, similar to its old predecessor, Starhopper.


Starship SN5 150-meter hop. August 4, 2020. Credit: Labpadre (Youtube)

Viewers online were on the edge of their seats waiting for the rocket’s first flight, and it went flawlessly! After hitting the 150-meter apogee, its little landing legs extended from the skirt and made an excellent landing on a landing pad nearby.


Render of Starship SN5’s landing legs. Credit: Kimi Talvitie

The stubby landing legs that SN5 used for its first 150-meter hop won’t cut it for uneven surfaces on the Moon or Mars. Musk proposes that the next iterations of the landing legs will be similar to the Falcon 9 and have capable of auto-leveling capabilities for stability.

Furthermore, after SN5’s hop, Musk confirmed that SpaceX would perform more short hops before eventually moving to a 20km hop with a nose cone and aero flaps.

This is only the beginning of humanity’s journey to Mars, allowing us to become a multiplanetary species. The future sure is exhilarating.

You can watch Starship SN5’s exciting launch below:

Toby Li
Written By

Toby Li is an avid EV and human spaceflight enthusiast. He is pursuing aerospace engineering in the hopes of someday becoming a future Martian.

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