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SpaceX gets Starship rocket closer to Mars with another successful hop

A prototype named simply SN6 made a brief test flight over Texas Thursday.

starshipsn5

SN5 blasts off earlier in August. 

SpaceX

SpaceX is now three for three when it comes to "hopping" its Starship prototypes from the company's Boca Chica, Texas development facility

Starship is Elon Musk's next-generation spacecraft designed to eventually take people to the moon, Mars and even beyond. SpaceX has conducted a trio of short, roughly 500-foot (150 meter) flights, or "hops," with a series of single-engine basic prototypes.

The first such test came with a smaller "Starhopper" prototype in 2019, and the second was a larger version designed for eventual orbital flights last month. On Thursday morning, a nearly identical model repeated the feat less than a month later. 

The rocket, dubbed SN6, lit up its single Raptor engine and levitated its silo-like body into the air and a bit to the side before coming back down for a soft landing. A small fire was ignited upon landing, but was quickly put out by large water hoses on site. 

It's not clear when we might see a prototype make it to orbit, but Musk has said the plan is to do a series of hops to work up to higher-altitude flights.