SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveils the full-scale version of the new Starhopper or Star Hopper. The starship has got three of the Raptor engines installed on it. This is a massive feat, showcasing the company’s commitment to inching towards its goal of sending humans to other planets, including Mars.
The Starhopper appearing with three engines mirrors the recent statement of the company’s CEO Elon Musk about the new spaceship. Elon Musk also shared details about the new starship earlier, stating that the hopper has been designed to perform different hop tests, to be conducted over Boca Chica, Texas.
Recent Filing by SpaceX for Testing the Space Vehicle
SpaceX recently submitted a filing with FCC relating to this particular program. The company wants to get a license for testing the vehicle with the permission to reach a maximum height of 5 kilometers and it has to last not more than 6 minutes. However, reports suggest that the document does not include any information about the maximum speed limit. It means that similar to the case of Blue Origin, the company would be given permission to break the sound barrier during its tests. Still, 5 kilometers may not be enough height for SpaceX to test its space vehicle since it will take less than 30 seconds for the Starhopper prototype to cover that distance with speeds not reaching greater than Mach 1 or 1.5.
The Starhopper apparently does not have any aerodynamic control surfaces, thus probably suggesting that it has only been created for testing purposes, with the objective of ironing out any issues that the vehicle may face balancing the thrust with three high powered engines. The test would also cover aspects of the Starship relating to the reliability of the launch, hovering, and also landing of such a large Starship prototype simulator.
Landing remains particularly challenging, with a difficult to achieve reliable thrust at 25% of engine power during landing while carrying a mass of 150 tons. Similarly, if the ship is emptied of cargo, it would have to reach a low throttle of 20% to accomplish a trouble-free landing.
Elon Musk’s Tweets on Starhopper
The tweets by Elon Musk on Starhopper indicate that the current engines are made using Raptor development and other operational parts. He also mentioned that the first hopper engine is about to get completed in an assembly in California and would probably be fired next month.
Before the first flight test, the Starhopper will need to have all its current three engines replaced. Elon Musk indicated the possibility of the first test flight to be sometime in February of 2019.
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