A prototype of SpaceX’s next-generation launch system performed a brief test flight Aug. 27, a key step in the system’s development.
The “Starhopper” vehicle lifted off from a pad at SpaceX’s test site near Brownsville, Texas, at 6:02 p.m. Eastern. The vehicle took off vertically, translated a short distance, then landed vertically on a different pad a little less than a minute after takeoff.The long-awaited test was intended to go to an altitude of 150 meters, although it was not immediately clear from the webcast of the flight exactly what altitude the vehicle achieved. The company provided no commentary for the webcast, and ended it shortly after the vehicle made what appeared to be a successful landing.SpaceX attempted to fly Starhopper Aug. 26, but the attempt was scrubbed after the Raptor engine failed to ignite. SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk later tweeted that “dual redundant torch igniters” in the engine appeared to have malfunctioned and needed to be inspected before trying again.The vehicle, powered by a single Raptor engine that uses methane and liquid oxygen propellants, made its first free flight July 25, rising several meters off the pad before landing about 10 to 15 seconds later. At the time, Musk said he expected a “hop” to an altitude of 200 meters in “a week or two.”