SpaceX tests prototype rocket that could pave way to Mars

SpaceX has successfully tested a prototype rocket that could help pave the way for trips to Mars and the moon, sending it to its highest altitude yet during a practice launch in Texas.

Founder and chief executive Elon Musk posted a live stream of the event on Twitter and offered his congratulations to his team after the so-called Spacehopper craft lifted 500ft (150m) into the air.

It hovered above the ground for an entire minute before safely descending back to ground – a significant milestone for technology that Mr Musk hopes will one day take a SpaceX rocket to the red planet.

The craft has been affectionately compared to Star Wars mascot R2-D2. Pic: Elon Musk
Image: The craft has been affectionately compared to Star Wars mascot R2-D2. Pic: Elon Musk

Spacehopper only made it to 59ft (18m) during its first launch attempt in July, but the latest test at Boca Chica has provided reason for optimism for future SpaceX projects.

The trashcan-looking craft, which Mr Musk has compared to Star Wars mascot R2-D2, was powered by an engine that will also be used on an upcoming rocket named Starship.

SpaceX wants Starship to be able to send people and cargo to destinations including the moon and Mars.

It is designed to launch from Earth atop an even bigger rocket booster named Super Heavy, with a draft environmental assessment for a potential take-off having been completed earlier this month.

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Starship will be equipped with six methane-fuelled Raptor engines, compared to one on Spacehopper.

The Super Heavy could have as many as 35 Raptors.

The picture of SpaceX's new rocket Starship. Pic: Elon Musk
Image: The picture of SpaceX’s new rocket Starship. Pic: Elon Musk

Another prototype rocket being built at Boca Chica will sport three of the engines, as will one being constructed at a facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

These two could reach as high as 12 miles during tests similar to those carried out by Spacehopper, which Mr Musk has said will now become a vertical test stand for Raptor engines to check performance.

Such tests will be key to the continued development of Starship and Super Heavy, which are not expected to make their debut until 2021 at the earliest.

Source: SKY NEWS

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