SpaceX: Starhopper soars above Texas in record-breaking test
The water tower-shaped craft is an early prototype of Starship, which SpaceX hopes will someday send humans to Mars.
- The test marked the first time a craft used a liquid-methane-burning engine to lift itself that high.
- The successful test paves the way for larger-scale tests of Starship prototypes.
- SpaceX could send Starship to Mars by as early as 2024. More realistically, the company plans to use the rocket to conduct cargo missions in 2021.
Spacex successfully on Tuesday completed its highest and most difficult test of Starhopper, the early-stage prototype of the spaceship CEO Elon Musk hopes will someday transport humans to Mars and beyond.
In a video of the test at SpaceX's test site in Boca Chica, Texas, the prototype craft — which some say resembles a flying water tower — can be seen lifting itself about 500 feet in the air, hovering for about 10 seconds, and finally descending back to ground, stirring up a cloud of dust in the process.
At first glance, the test might not seem too impressive. But it marked the first time a craft used a liquid-methane-burning engine to fly that high above the ground, serving as a proof-of-concept that SpaceX can use to move forward confidently with full-scale prototypes of Starship. These prototypes — which SpaceX is calling Mk1 and Mk2 — will pave the way for future moon and Mars missions using Starship.
Starship is set to use six SpaceX Raptor engines, which are a family of methane-fueled SpaceX engines that the company plans to use on interplanetary missions. (For context: Starhopper used a single Raptor engine; Mk1 and Mk2 will probably use three each; and the "Super Heavy" rocket is set to use 35.) However, Musk said Starship's specifications might get updated after SpaceX reviews data from Tuesday's test.
As for Starhopper, Tuesday's test was its last. But although Starhopper will never make it to space, SpaceX plans to make use of the experimental craft on Earth.
"Yes, last flight for Hopper," Musk said via Twitter on Saturday. "If all goes well, it will become a vertical test stand for Raptor."
Starship is set to be a 100-passenger spacecraft that will be launched off of Earth by SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket, or "Super Heavy" rocket. But Starship is unique because it's also a rocket unto itself, one that's designed to land on and take off from distant planets all on its own. It's also unique because it's fueled by liquid methane and liquid oxygen, both of which are gasses that could theoretically be produced on other planets and used to refuel the craft.
What's next for Starship? It's hard to say exactly — in part because Musk is known for setting aspirational timelines — but, based on the company's statements, you might expect to see Starship:
- 2021: Launch a commercial satellite into space
- 2022: Carry cargo to Mars (though this is unlikely)
- 2023: Transport Japanese billionaire Yukazu Maezawa, along with a handful of other artists, around the moon.
- 2024-2026: (Possibly) send humans to Mars
Even if SpaceX doesn't send humans to Mars by 2026, Musk is confident Starship will get the job done someday.
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
BASE particle physicists have discovered a very precise way to examine antimatter.
Thank your lucky stars you’re alive. It’s truly a miracle of nature. This has nothing to do with spirituality or religion and everything to do with science. Life itself may not be the miracle. Although we haven’t found it elsewhere yet, our galaxy alone is so replete with Earth-like planets that, mathematically speaking, one of them must hold life, even if it’s just the microbial variety. Intelligent life may be another matter.
Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.
I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.
A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.
- A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
- The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
- The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Mathematicians studied 100 billion tweets to help computer algorithms better understand our colloquial digital communication.