Elon Musk Reveals SpaceX’s New Retro Test Rocket

Complete with a decidedly retro feel, SpaceX’s new experimental rocket has been fully assembled at the company’s Boca Chica, Texas, launch site. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has tweeted out a picture of the Starship test rocket.

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The “test hopper,” as Musk and COO Gwynne Shotwell call it, isn’t actually meant to fly into space. It’s meant for suborbital VTOL testing (vertical takeoff and landing). It will hop, so to speak, around 16,400 feet into the air and then land again, according to documents filed with the FCC. These tests are crucial for new rockets like the SpaceX Starship.

No stranger to branding or pop culture references, Musk celebrated the Falcon 9’s testing with Johnny Cash’s classic “Ring of Fire.” This time around, he’s referencing Hergé’s classic Tintin cartoons, as well as 1950s sci-fi classics like Destination Moon.

This isn’t what the final version of the Starship will look like. The orbital Starship, eventually meant to ferry up to 100 people to Mars with 150 tons of cargo, will be bigger and sport a much sturdier skin needed to withstand the journey out of Earth’s atmosphere. Formerly known as the BFR, the Starship remains the company’s most ambitious project. Down the road, it’s hoped that the Starship will replace all of the company’s current rocketry, including its reusable Falcon 9.

Because of its experimental and limited nature, the SpaceX team could get a little more creative with the design. Reflecting on the design on Twitter (where else?), Musk commented that it “must be more pointy.”

Popular Mechanics

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