SpaceX reveals picture of fully assembled suborbital Starship hopper

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Starship Hopper

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has released pictures of the fully assembled suborbital Starship hopper, planned for its first test flights in the coming months. The image on the right is not a simulation, but the real thing.

In tweets by Elon Musk, he also revealed that they hope to have an orbital prototype of Starship built by June, with the Super Heavy booster beginning construction in the spring. More information here.

This is unquestionably an ambitious schedule, but the contrast with the development of SpaceX’s manned Dragon capsule, slowed absurdly by the government shutdown and NASA’s bureaucracy, highlights clearly the fundamental reason why SpaceX refused government money for the development of Super Heavy/Starship. By using private funds, SpaceX is free to proceed at its own pace, which is fast, rather than waiting for permission from the bean-counters sitting in NASA offices who have no real idea how to build anything.

It is likely they will not meet this schedule. It is also likely that they will also get this done in a time frame far faster than anyone expects.



  • jburn

    Elon Musk and his team are simply amazing.

    I have to laugh with joy at how rapidly this test rocket was put together. NASA would still be forming a committee about forming more committees, by contrast.

    Note the small houses in the background and the American flag placed on this silver test vehicle. It really does look like it was ripped from the pages of a 1950s science fiction novel — but it’s happening now, finally!

  • Chris Lopes

    And in Heaven, Robert Heinlein smiles.

  • MarcusZ1967

    And in Heaven, Robert Heinlein smiles.

    And so does Jim Baen!

  • Gent

    Wait…you mean this thing (in the picture) that looks like they’ve been building a silo in an Iowa cornfield is THE vehicle they will actually put on top of a candle? I just hope a bird doesn’t hit it.

  • MDN

    Starship is cool, but with a 9 meter fairing diameter and Saturn V class payload capacity why aren’t we building an 8 meter optical replacement for Hubble to launch on the Super Heavy? At the least some philanthropic billionaire should fund the University of Arizona mirror lab to work on an appropriate light weight prototype of the optics. Or might WE perhaps kick off such an endeavor by starting a Go Fund Me campaign?

  • MDN asked, “Why aren’t we building an 8 meter optical replacement for Hubble to launch on the Super Heavy?”

    Simple answer: NASA and the federal government’s bureaucracy feels threatened by it and therefore wants nothing to do with it. In fact, they are threatened by it, because it will clearly demonstrate the utter waste and uselessness of SLS, which is what is financing many of the jobs in that bureaucracy. If SLS goes away, so do those jobs.

  • Kirk

    Gent, silos withstand bird strikes just fine, don’t they?

    FCC license applications reveal that SpaceX plans two separate test regimes with this hopper: low-altitude tests under 500 meters lasting about 100 seconds as often as three times per week & high-altitude tests under 5 km lasting about 6 minutes as often as once per week. These will be gentle flights which shouldn’t rip off too many of those stainless sheets.

  • pzatchok

    there is a second Hubble mirror on display in a museum.

    If permission is given the original Hubble could be copied and the electronic optics upgraded to today’s best.

    They could even double the number of gyro’s and keep half off as back ups for later.
    Or add more fuel this time.

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