As SpaceX and Elon Musk prepare for next week’s tests of its prototype Starship suborbital vehicle — which is currently sitting on a launch pad at SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas, facility — new aerial images of the majestic hopper have just been published ahead of its suborbital hop tests.
As Space reports, Musk recently suggested that test flights of his company’s “hopper,” which will utilize just one Raptor engine to power it, will “hopefully” be taking place at some point this coming week after its engine has been fully integrated. This engine, along with the rocket itself, rolled into SpaceX’s Texas facility last week.
In preparation for the Starship hopper’s upcoming test flights, those who live in the housing subdivision of Boca Chica Village were first alerted that SpaceX could begin their tests “as soon as the week of March 18, 2019,” and a flyer noted that a “safety zone” perimeter would be employed when the tests occurred.
“During those tests, SpaceX will establish a safety zone perimeter in coordination with local law enforcement. Signage will be in place prior to testing to alert the community of any temporary closures of Highway 4 and Boca Chica Beach.”
When originally asked if the Starship would really be making its first hops so soon, Elon Musk remained positive in his reply.
“Hopefully. Always many issues integrating engine & stage. First hops will lift off, but only barely,” he wrote on Twitter.
However, as the stunning new aerial shots were captured of the Starship hopper as it prepared for its very first hops, bad weather created delays for SpaceX, which postponed its inaugural liftoff.
— Jolly Mampilly (@jollymampilly) March 23, 2019
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has now put new flight restrictions in place around the SpaceX Texas site from March 25 through March 27 between the hours of 10:00 a.m. EST and 7:00 p.m. EST, suggesting that if all goes according to plan, the first test hops of the Starship prototype may begin next week. That being said, Musk and SpaceX have not as of yet publicly confirmed these specific dates.
And if these tests do proceed along the times which have been suggested by the FAA, the Daily Mail has noted that those watching the test site won’t (in all likelihood) be able to see much as history is made with the suborbital vehicle’s first hops.
Before the official tests for the Starship begin, this vehicle will be filled with oxygen propellant and liquid methane, and then the prototype will be boosted several feet up in the air with its Raptor engine.
With the vehicle’s first hops, SpaceX will be able to confirm that the prototype Starship hopper has no difficulties with either taking off or landing.