While this might look like something out of Tintin’s Destination Moon – this latest SpaceX creation is real and ready for testing.
Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla and SpaceX) today revealed that SpaceX’s ‘Starship Hopper’ is now complete by sharing a photograph of the craft shimmering outside companies factory near the Boca Chica village in south Texas.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 11, 2019
When SpaceX renamed their ‘Big Falcon Rocket’ (BFR) to ‘Starship’ Musk was quoted as saying that he loved the Tintin Rocket Design and so ‘wanted to bias [its design] towards that – if in doubt go with Tintin’. This latest image shows that SpaceX Engineers have delivered on that promise.
Tintin was the inspiration for ‘Spaceships’ design
The craft is the cornerstone to SpaceX’s long term plan to colonise Mars and the ‘Hopper’ is the test vehicle to ensure that the design is suitable for sub-orbital vertical take-off and landing.
The tube-like pointy rocket is 120 feet tall and has three rear fins which act as landing pads.
Testing will involve the Hopper blasting off to a height of 5km; hovering, and returning to land.
However, before that happens SpaceX will test fire its new ‘Raptor’ engine design. This is expected to happen this February; meaning the first test flight could be as early as March this year.
The final version of the craft will include SpaceX’s ‘Super Heavy’ boosters. If the next round of testing is successful SpaceX could test its Super Heavy configuration by the end of the year. Alongside the boosters, this final Orbital version will be taller, have a thicker less wrinkly skin and sport a smooth curving nose.
While the stainless mirror finish looks fantastic it is not just for show. The intense heat expected during the tests means the craft would be too hot to be painted.
SpaceX’s aims to have its first Mars mission launch in 2022.