On Aug. 4, 2020, SpaceX's SN5 Starship prototype took a short, uncrewed hop that could end up leading to humanity's next giant leap.
SN5 flew about 500 feet (150 meters) above SpaceX's South Texas facilities, near the village of Boca Chica. It was the first-ever test flight for a full-size prototype of the company's Mars-colonizing Starship spacecraft. (The first flights overall for the Starship development line were made in 2019 by a small, stubby craft dubbed Starhopper.)
See some of the best photos of the landmark flight below.
Liftoff! SpaceX's 165-foot-tall (50 m) SN5 Starship prototype launches on its first-ever test flight on Aug. 4, 2020, from the company's facilities near the South Texas village of Boca Chica. (Image credit: SpaceX) Not just up and down SN5 demonstrated controlled flight, moving from its launch pad to a nearby landing zone during the roughly 45-second-long hop. (Image credit: SpaceX) 500 feet high The target altitude for the Aug. 4 flight was about 500 feet (150 meters), SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said. (Image credit: SpaceX) Beauty shot Musk tweeted this gorgeous shot of the stainless steel SN5 framed against the South Texas wetlands, sky and sea. (Image credit: Elon Musk via Twitter) Coming down SN5 comes down toward Earth in this view, taken from a livestream provided by SPadre.com. (Image credit: SPadre.com) Landing legs deployed This screenshot from a SpaceX video shows the SN5's single Raptor engine burning and the vehicle’s landing legs deployed, ready for touchdown. (Image credit: SpaceX) Touchdown
The SN5 prototype touches down, bringing its debut flight to an end.
But SN5 will likely fly again, Musk has said, and many of its successors will take to the skies as well. SpaceX is iterating to the final Starship design via a series of prototypes. The next one, SN6, is ready to make a 500-foot hop of its own. And in the near future, a three-engine prototype will get about 12 miles (20 kilomteters) up, if all goes according to plan.
The operational Starship will have six Raptors and will be able to fly up to 100 people to distant destinations such as the moon and Mars, Musk has said. The reusable vehicle will be powerful enough to launch itself off the surfaces of those two relatively small worlds, but it will need help to escape Earth's gravity well. Starship will therefore launch from our planet atop a gigantic, reusable rocket called Super Heavy, which will sport about 30 Raptors of its own. (Image credit: SpaceX)
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