Investing in Space

SpaceX's prototype Starship rocket passes critical milestone toward first flight

Key Points
  • Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully conducted a critical test of its Starship prototype on Sunday.
  • The test involved filling the rocket's tank with extremely chilled fuel while under pressure.
  • Starship is a massive rocket that SpaceX is developing, with the goal of launching cargo and people to the moon and Mars.
A screenshot of SpaceX testing a prototype of its Starship rocket with cryogenic temperature fuels.
SpaceX

SpaceX successfully conducted a critical test of its Starship prototype on Sunday, in a milestone that foiled previous iterations of the rocket in the past few months.

Elon Musk's space company performed a pressurized, cryogenic test of its fourth Starship prototype. The test involved filling the rocket's tank with extremely chilled fuel while under pressure, a process the rocket needs to perform reliably to launch.

The rocket's tank either burst or collapsed the last three times the company attempted this test since November.

"SN4 passed cryo proof," Musk said in a tweet.

Starship is a massive rocket that SpaceX is developing, with the goal of launching cargo and people to the moon and Mars. The rocket is designed to be reusable so SpaceX can launch and land it multiple times, like a commercial airplane. Starship's shiny external appearance is because of the type of stainless steel that SpaceX is using to build the rocket.

An animation of SpaceX's rocket Starship launching through the Earth's atmosphere.
SpaceX

Musk said that the company plans to install one Raptor rocket engine for a "static fire" test later this week. If that's successful, SpaceX will move on to attempting a short flight to about 500 feet altitude. That flight test would be similar to the one SpaceX performed in October with an earlier prototype, nicknamed "Starhopper."

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The company would then install three Raptor engines on the next Starship iteration, Musk said, for even higher flight tests.

SpaceX has been aggressively developing Starship, with the company's leadership setting the goal of reaching space later this year – and the moon by 2022.

A SpaceX prototype Starship rocket on the company's test stand in Boca Chica, Texas.
SpaceX

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