SpaceX has launched a prototype of its Mars rocketship 500 feet into the air, landing it upright.
The Starship SN5 test vehicle took to the skies for about 40 seconds this afternoon (Aug. 4) at SpaceX’s facilities near the South Texas village of Boca Chica, performing a small hop that could end up being a big step toward human exploration of the Red Planet.
“Mars is looking real,” Musk tweeted shortly after today’s test flight.
Mars is looking real
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 5, 2020
The stainless-steel SN5 rose into the air at 7:57 p.m. EDT (2357 GMT; 6:57 p.m. local Texas time). It traveled sideways a bit during the brief, uncrewed flight, which Musk had previously said would target a maximum altitude of about 500 feet (150 meters). The spacecraft deployed its landing legs as planned and stuck the landing.
The SN5 is just the second Starship prototype to get off the ground, and the first to do so in nearly a year. A squat and stubby vehicle called Starhopper took a few brief flights in the summer of 2019, retiring after acing its own 500-foot-high hop that August.
Ending this flight lull fell to the SN5 after several of its predecessors were destroyed during pressurization or engine-firing tests.
Starhopper and the SN5 both feature a single Raptor, SpaceX’s powerful next-generation engine. The final Starship vehicle will sport six Raptors, stand about 165 feet (50 m) tall and be capable of carrying up to 100 people, Musk has said.