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How to watch SpaceX hop its Starship prototype off the ground

Elon Musk's Starship hopper hopes to rise to the occasion after several delays.


Starhopper didn't make its hop on July 24.

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Starship prototype. Hopper. Starhopper. Hoppy. Whatever you want to call it, the shiny stainless-steel vehicle in Boca Chica Village, Texas, is setting the pace for SpaceX's plans to visit the moon and eventually Mars. That's why its first hover test is so critical and so fascinating.

The SpaceX Starship hopper prototype was originally assembled with a nose cone, which is now absent.

Elon Musk

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has been teasing the test, which aims to take the Starhopper over 65 feet (20 meters) off the ground, for more than a week. 

The actual test has been pushed back several times. SpaceX was originally set to give it a shot on Wednesday, but aborted the attempt. The hopper may get another chance Thursday.

Musk hinted that he would make a livestream of the test available, and SpaceX delivered at the last minute on Wednesday with a tweeted link to a live feed

Keep an eye on the SpaceX Twitter account on Thursday to see if another webcast pops up.

Space aficionados also have cameras trained on the Texas test site. The Starship cam is a good one to check in on. This live feed shows the blunt-nosed Starship hopper from a distance and should give a solid view of any hover activities.

A single Raptor engine mounted to the Starhopper will power the hover attempt. The hopper is not meant to travel into space, but rather as a test vehicle for take-offs and landings. It will also help put the new Raptor engine through its paces.

A test fire last week turned into an eye-catching fireball, but Musk tweeted the flames were caused by a post-test fuel leak and there was no serious damage to the stainless-steel hopper.

Musk has an ambitious timeline in mind for the development of Starship, saying the spacecraft could go to the moon as early 2021. SpaceX previously announced plans to send a group of artists around the moon on Starship in 2023

Space plans are notorious for delays, and SpaceX isn't immune to that pattern. Long before Starship can launch into Earth orbit, to the moon or even all the way to Mars, it first needs to show it can successfully get off the ground using the new Raptor engine. We're watching.

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