The prototype of the first stage of the rocket the company is planning to use for Mars exploration, rose to the height of 150 meters and, after a short maneuver, landed onto its take-off pad.
SpaceX continues its active preparations for manned flights to Mars. The company has tested the Starhopper, an improved version of which will be used as the first stage of the super-powerful Mars-bound rocket Starship and Super Heavy. SpaceX traditionally broadcast the launch on YouTube.
The new super-powerful launcher is intended to replace Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy currently used by SpaceX for launching. The first stage of the new rocket will be called Super Heavy and it will be quite ordinary for its class. The second stage called Starship is interesting in that it also includes the functionality of a full-fledged cargo spacecraft.
The both parts of the future rocket can return to their take-off sites, therefore, they can be used many times. So far, the company is testing stage prototypes separately.
To test the soft landing system, SpaceX made an engine that is slightly different from the one that will be installed on the full-fledged version of the rocket. It has the same 9-meter width, but its height significantly smaller – about 20 meters. The number of engines is also different. The prototype has only one engine, whereas the final version will have six of them.
Starhopper was first tested in July 2019. At that time, it rose only 20 meters high. During the new test, the craft rose to the height of 150 meters and after hovering for a few seconds returned to its take-off site making a soft landing.
At first, SpaceX engineers were not planning to use Starhopper for tests any longer, but it was subsequently decided that it would participate in stationary engine tests.
Aside from the Starhopper, SpaceX engineers have developed a full-size prototype of the second stage. Tests of the both stages together are scheduled for 2020, and in 2021 the first flight with a payload will be made.
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