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SpaceX's Starship 'hopper' freezes up, but could still throw fire soon

Elon Musk says the first test firing of his Mars rocket prototype has been delayed by ice.

April Fools' Day turned out to be a quiet day for Elon Musk and SpaceX. There had been a chance the rocket company would fire up its two next-generation rockets on Monday, but instead both test firings were delayed.

For the past few weeks SpaceX has been working toward starting up a single Raptor engine "hopper" prototype of its Starship (formerly known as BFR) at its Boca Chica, Texas, launch facility. After days of checking out the rocket's tanks and lots of observed venting at the pad but no rocket fire, there finally seemed to be something happening Monday.

A burst of steam was seen issuing forth from the bottom of the rocket, but no flames. In case you're wondering why there appears to be fire flaring out of a small stack near the Starship, that's likely excess methane or other gases being burned off. Videos have also circulated online showing lots of flames at the pad after dark Monday night, which are probably also the same gas flares.

Early Tuesday morning, Elon Musk said on Twitter that the first test of a Raptor engine as part of Starship had been set back by "some challenges with ice formation in the cryogenic propellant prevalves. Hopefully overcome soon."

Close-up video of the rocket prototype obtained by a local information site from nearby South Padre Island showed that everything seemed to be normal as of Tuesday morning. 

Meanwhile, a planned static fire test of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has been pushed back from Monday to Wednesday, according to NASASpaceflight.com. The last time we saw Heavy, which is basically three Falcon rockets and an upper stage strapped together, in action it was launching Musk's red Tesla toward Mars

Despite the test being delayed, Heavy is still slated for its first commercial launch on Sunday evening when it carries commercial communications satellite Arabsat 6A to orbit. 

And we could still see some action for the Starship hopper soon. The FAA has issued airspace closures for the Boca Chica area for Tuesday through Thursday.