Which is the illustration, and which is the actual Starship Hopper test rocket? The real rocket is on the left — and take note of the Starman standing by one of the fins. (Elon Musk via Twitter)
For weeks, photographers have been snapping pictures of a retro-looking, shiny stainless-steel rocket that’s been taking shape at SpaceX’s launch site in South Texas — and tonight, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk declared that assembly of the first Starship short-hop test rocket is complete.
Musk tweeted a picture of what looks to be a roughly 120-foot-tall “Starship Hopper,” composed of three sections that were put together at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility.
“This is an actual picture, not a rendering,” Musk wrote. But the rocket does look eerily like the illustration that Musk shared several days earlier — or, for that matter, the pointy-topped rockets that were all the rage in the 1940s.
Starship is the latest incarnation of the spaceship formerly known as the Interplanetary Transport System, Mars Colonial Transporter, the Big Falcon Rocket or the BFR.
Musk says the refuelable Starship, when paired with a huge rocket booster known as the Super Heavy, could be used for transcontinental point-to-point trips on Earth, satellite constellation deployment, voyages around the moon and to the lunar surface, and journeys to Mars and back.
A new type of stainless-steel alloy is being used because that’s the best way for the craft to shed heat as it zooms through the atmosphere. “Starship will look like liquid silver,” Musk wrote.
The craft that has been taking shape in Texas is meant to fly short hops to practice launches and landings, just as SpaceX’s Grasshopper rocket platform and its successor, the F9R Dev, were used as test beds for Falcon 9 booster landings in the 2012-2014 time frame.
Although Musk declared …read more