SpaceX has revealed it has begun initial tethered tests of the Starship “Starhopper” launch vehicle.
The company's founder and CEO Elon Musk recently tweeted a short video showing the testing, captioned "Starhopper just lifted off & hit tether limits!", after initially tweeting that “Starhopper completed tethered hop. All systems green”, following its original test.
The launch vehicle is undergoing testing at SpaceX's facility in Boca Chica, Texas, with the firing of its single Raptor engine for a few short seconds, with Starhopper only lifted from the ground for a short distance due to the tethers.
Starhopper is the prototype of Starship, which is a reusable launch vehicle that SpaceX will use in the future to transport humans to the moon and Mars.
In February, SpaceX succesfully test-fired the first flight version of the Raptor engine, which is powered by methane and liquid oxygen propellants.
Musk's company is also building a reusable rocket called the Super Heavy, which will serve as the booster for Starship.
SpaceX is aiming for its first mission to Mars in 2022, if development and testing go to plan, with the objectives to be to confirm water resources, identify hazards and install initial power, mining and life support infrastructure.
A second, and this time crewed, mission is set for 2024, with the aim of building a propellant depot and preparing for future crewed flights.
SpaceX will also use the first ships from these missions to serve as the beginnings of a first Mars base, with the aim of building a "thriving city and eventually a self-sustaining civilisation on Mars".
As well as interplanetary transport, Starship is designed to deliver satellites to Earth orbit and beyond.
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