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SpaceX's Starhopper Prototype for Starship Reaches End of Its Rope In Test Hop

SpaceX's Starhopper prototype is at the end of its rope, literally. 

In a nighttime test Friday (April 5), the squat hopping testbed for SpaceX's future Starship spacecraft reached the end of its tether, rising what appears to be a few feet or more above the ground at its launch site. SpaceX performed the test at the company's Boca Chica test site near Brownsville, Texas, with the tether serving as a safety line on the vehicle. 

"Starhopper just lifted off & hit tether limits!" SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter today, showing a video of the brief hop. The video is just 2 seconds long, but shows the Starhopper clearly lifting up amid its fiery exhaust.  

Related: SpaceX Starship and Super Heavy Mars Rocket in Pictures

SpaceX's Starhopper prototype for Starship performs a test hope using its Raptor rocket engine on April 5, 2019 at the company's Boca Chica test center near Brownsville, Texas. (Image credit: Elon Musk/SpaceX)

Friday's test followed an earlier hop late Wednesday (April 3) in which SpaceX ignited the single Raptor rocket engine on Starhopper for the first time. That test was also a success, Elon Musk said on Twitter

SpaceX is in the early stages of testing Starhopper as part of the company's Starship program to develop a fully reusable spacecraft for deep-space missions to the moon, future Mars colonies and more. That Starship project aims to build and fly a 100-person spacecraft with the help of a massive Super Heavy booster rocket that would also be reusable.

SpaceX has already signed its first passenger for the Starship spacecraft, with  Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa  booking a trip around the moon slated to fly no earlier than 2023.  

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Tariq Malik
Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.