- Elon Musk on Thursday night tweeted an image of an experimental rocket meant to help him get to Mars.
- The so-called test hopper will not enter orbit when it launches in the coming weeks but is instead meant to inform how SpaceX works toward a full-scale prototype of the Mars Starship.
- Musk has described Starship as a “Tintin” rocket, referring to the 20th-century Belgian comics series.
Elon Musk has published a photo of an experimental rocket meant to help him achieve his mission of conquering Mars.
After teasing the spaceship earlier this month, Musk posted a picture of the vehicle – dubbed the “test hopper” – in real life on Friday from SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 11, 2019
As Business Insider’s Dave Mosher noted earlier this month, the rocket carries the test-hopper moniker because it is not designed to orbit the Earth. Instead, the windowless ship will rocket on “hops” that propel it no more than about 16,400 feet in the air.
In simple terms, it’s an experimental vehicle whose successes (or failures) will inform how SpaceX works toward a full-scale, orbit-ready prototype of Starship, which could one day ferry up to 100 people and 150 tons of cargo to Mars.
In a tweet explaining the rocket, Musk made clear it was for “suborbital” tests. The orbital version will be “taller, has thicker skins (won’t wrinkle) & a smoothly curving nose section,” Musk added. The operational ship will also have windows. In a tweet earlier this month, Musk said the rocket would run its first test in four to eight weeks, nearly a year ahead of schedule.
Musk has said the final Starship rocket will look like “liquid silver” during the blazing-hot reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. But because of the test hopper’s imperfections, like the ridges between the steel panels, it already has a liquid silver shine.
SpaceX fans have also been posting images of the ship:
A full-scale Starship is scheduled to launch people for the first time in 2023. Musk has said he hopes to launch the first crews to Mars in the mid-2020s, perhaps as early as 2024, to arrive at the red planet in 2025.
He has described Starship as a “Tintin” rocket, referring to the 20th-century Belgian comics series. “I love the ‘Tintin’ rocket design, so I kind of wanted to bias it towards that,” he said during a press conference in September.