Starship Hopper prototype engine tested at Boca Chica

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A rocket, singular. The final Starship will be lifted by three or more of SpaceX's newer and powerful engines but the first few rounds of tests will only involve one Raptor on the Starhopper. No, Musk first unveiled the vehicle in 2016 at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, where the company's fans have been watching avidly from afar as ground crews installed the first Raptor engine and tested out the propulsion system's plumbing. The test was a tethered hop that let the engine do a "static fire" while connected to the ground so engineering teams could monitor it.

The Starship could be used to send people to Mars and the Moon in the future, due to the US and other nations emphasizing the importance of space exploration.

Starship is the spacecraft SpaceX wants to use for a variety of purposes, from colonising Mars to conduct internal trips around the Earth. The hopper first fired up on April 3.

Elon Musk treated in a tweet last month: "First (really short) hops with one engine ..."

The Starhopper, as the company's CEO calls the test spaceship, will be used to confirm takeoff and landing capabilities of the future machine that will carry humans to orbit and beyond. However, Musk has revealed that higher altitude testing will require the installation of two additional raptor engines. In its now planned configuration, the Super Heavy would use its 31 Raptor engines to send the refuelable Starship on transcontinental point-to-point trips between earthly spaceports, on orbital missions to deploy bunches of satellites, and on journeys beyond Earth orbit.

SpaceX is now working on receiving regulatory approvals to fly from Boca Chica and Cape Canaveral, where the company is building both the Starship and the Super Heavy.

SpaceX spread fliers to locals before the test took place, so that special checkpoints will be set up during the test, in order to keep a safety perimeter.

The orbital Starship version of the rocket is targeting flights in 2020.

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