SpaceX has been working on the design for its highly-anticipated Starship hopper for quite some time, all the while keeping fans in suspense over the final look of the massive rocket that will one day ferry humans to Mars.
The long wait is now finally over. After teasing the public with a sleek rendition of the Starship concept art on January 5 — as the Inquisitr reported at the time — the private rocket company has finished building the spacecraft’s prototype, notes Space.
The announcement came from the SpaceX CEO Elon Musk himself, who took to Twitter on Thursday to unveil a dazzling photo of the first Starship test vehicle.
The image, which has since gone viral, reveals that the prototype of SpaceX’s Mars-colonizing rocket has been fully assembled. The snapshot shows off the Starship hopper, photographed standing tall at the company’s Texas launch site in Boca Chica — next to a spacesuit-clad individual that gives people a clearer idea of how enormous the spacecraft really is.
As Engadget points out, the newly unveiled model is a suborbital version of the Starship vehicle and is designed for vertical take-off and landing tests. The vehicle boasts a textured, shiny exterior and has three prominent fins that end in landing pads.
“This is for suborbital VTOL tests. Orbital version is taller, has thicker skins (won’t wrinkle) and a smoothly curving nose section,” Musk explained via Twitter.
To get another look at the stainless-steel beauty, check out the video below, filmed by SpaceX follower Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo in Boca Chica. The footage captures the Starship hopper in all its glory, providing more context to the craft’s impressive size.
With the construction of the Starship prototype now completed, SpaceX is on track for the first series of test flights. These will entail suborbital “hops” designed to launch the craft several miles in the air and land it safely back on the ground.
These tests, which are to be conducted at the Texas facility, will be fairly similar to the Grasshopper vehicle tests from six years ago, Musk detailed in a follow-up tweet.
Starship Hopper will do vertical flight tests similar to the Falcon 9 Hopper https://t.co/5dCrGFqymR— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 11, 2019
As to the possible timeline for the first suborbital test flight of the Starship, the SpaceX CEO has already given a ballpark estimate. The test is expected to take place sometime during the next couple of months, Musk revealed on Twitter last week.
Formerly known as the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket), the Starship hopper was rebranded last fall, when Musk announced that SpaceX’s Mars-bound vehicle was getting another name.
Technically, two parts: Starship is the spaceship/upper stage & Super Heavy is the rocket booster needed to escape Earth’s deep gravity well (not needed for other planets or moons)— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 20, 2018
The giant rocket was developed to transport as many as 100 people at a time, and can journey both to various destinations on Earth, on hour-long trips from city to city, and to outer space.
According to Phys.org, SpaceX will be releasing an orbital prototype of the Starship vehicle in June. This version will be paired with a massive booster known as the Super Heavy and will one day carry humans to the moon, to Mars, and even further into deep space.