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SpaceX Starhopper awaits go-ahead for next test jump

Elon Musk's Starship hopper prototype hopes to ascend 200 meters.

Starhopper before its first untethered flight.

Screenshot by CNET

If you enjoyed watching SpaceX's Starship prototype fly 20 meters (65 feet) into the air last month, then you're in for a treat when it shoots for a new 200-meter goal. The launch attempt was originally set to happen as soon as Friday, but it seems to be delayed.

The shiny stainless-steel prototype is powered by a single Raptor engine and is nicknamed "Starhopper." It's designed make short "hops" to test takeoffs and landings. SpaceX is also working on two separate Starship orbital prototypes that will aim to reach Earth orbit. 

Starship is SpaceX's next-generation spacecraft. It's meant to seek Earth orbit, but also travel around the moon and even land on the moon or Mars one day. It's a key part of founder Elon Musk's vision of making our species interplanetary. 

On Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a flight-restriction notice for Starhopper's Texas test site for Aug. 16 to 18 at certain times to enable the rocket to safely liftoff. This falls in line with Musk saying on Twitter that the hop would hopefully happen this weekend. 

The first potential window opens Friday. But Cameron County, where SpaceX is located, no longer lists any road closures on its SpaceX updates site. A call to a Cameron County hotline still indicates planned road closures for Aug. 16 to 18 with additional times set for Aug. 23 to 25.

Musk took to Twitter on Thursday to say that the Federal Aviation Administration wants more hazard analysis before it approves Starhopper's next test. He didn't give a possible timeline for completing the analysis. "Should be clear to fly soon," Musk tweeted.

As for witnessing the test live, you have a few options. SpaceX streamed an attempt that didn't get off the ground in late July. Keep an eye on the SpaceX Twitter account for a possible webcast link. 

Tim Dodd, a space specialist and YouTube educator known as Everyday Astronaut, will likely be stationed nearby to keep an eye on things. Follow his YouTube page for a live feed and commentary.

Spadre.com, a South Padre Island tourism site, runs an ongoing live view of the Starship facility from a distance. It doesn't always have the clearest view, but it's worth a peek. 

Delays are common when it comes to spacecraft testing. But if all goes as planned, SpaceX may move ahead with its orbital Starships. That would be significant because Musk has suggested that Starship could visit the moon as soon as 2021. Time is short. Get hopping.

Originally published Aug. 14.
Update, Aug. 16: Adds information on potential road closures and Musk's latest tweet.