Starhopper demonstration face more delays but this time, due to technical difficulties

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The SpaceX Starhopper rocket faced another delay last Monday. The space company called to abort the test flight at the last second due to technical difficulties on its single-engine. However, SpaceX hopes to try its highly-anticipated demonstration flight again this Tuesday.

Initially, Monday’s scheduled flight was already delayed by two hours prior launch. SpaceX ultimately aborted the demonstration once the countdown ticked down to zero due to its single Raptor engine failing to ignite.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hinted that the problem may have been the igniters on the Raptor, the company’s newest rocket engine.

“Raptor uses dual redundant torch igniters. Better long-term, but more finicky in development,” Musk wrote in a tweet. “Igniters need to be inspected,” Musk added. “We will try again tomorrow same time.”

With SpaceX now aiming for a Tuesday (August 27) attempt for Starhopper, the area’s Cameron County sheriff’s department will close roads in Boca Chica neighborhoods near SpaceX’s facility for several hours during the launch attempt.

Cameron County, Texas, officials have been circulating a notice to residents advising them to prepare for “space flight activities” this week.

A message reportedly sent to Boca Chica residents near SpaceX’s facilities warned about the test, suggesting they go outside during the flight to “avoid or minimize injury” from broken windows in the event of an accident or explosion.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is granted until a Wednesday demonstration if needed.

So far, Starhopper’s supposedly last flight demonstration has been delayed for nearly a week beginning with follow-up permits needed to be secured from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) where Musk addressed earlier this week in a tweet saying: “Good conversation with [the] head of FAA Space. Need a bit more hazard analysis & should be clear to fly soon.”

The Federal Aviation Administration revised SpaceX’s experimental permit for the rocket prototype to fly as high as 150 meters (492 feet) above ground level. The revised permit was signed Friday and posted to the FAA’s website on Monday morning.

However, Musk initially wanted to target a 200-meter test flight for Starhopper and a maximum propellant load of 30 tons. However, it also meant for SpaceX to shell out more money for its liability insurance for the flight from $3 million to $100 million in case of an accident.

This last test was also meant to prove that capability of the currently being constructed Starship space vehicles from SpaceX.

So far, SpaceX launched the 60-foot (18 m) tall Starhopper on two short hops earlier this year. On July 25, Starhopper launched off its first free flight and reached a height of about 65 feet (20 m). Musk has said that this fourth flight will be the highest and last prototype demonstration.

“Yes, last flight for Hopper,” Musk said via Twitter on Aug. 24. “If all goes well, it will become a vertical test stand for Raptor.” 

If this next hop is successful, Musk has said, will follow with a public presentation “hopefully mid-September,” as an update on the design and vision for Starship.

Particularly, Starhopper is scaled prototype for the massive Starship vehicles that SpaceX is currently building. One in Boca Chica, Texas and the other one in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

SpaceX mainly built Starhopper as a technology to demonstrate its ambitious Starship and Super Heavy rocket project, which aims to develop an extensive, fully reusable launch system for trips to low-Earth orbit, the moon, Mars and even point-to-point trips around Earth with its 100-passenger capacity.

Once Starhopper is retired, SpaceX is expected to turn its attention to its larger Starship prototypes, which will be powered by multiple Raptor engines. In comparison. Starship’s Super Heavy megarocket consists of 35 Raptor engines versus Starhopper’s single Raptor engine.

All of which, are part of Musk’s ambitious plans of offering commercial flights to space and eventually, to colonize Mars. However, it still needs to demonstrate how his spacecraft will be able to achieve the goal.

Furthermore, it won’t also be happening soon as a SpaceX official said that SpaceX’s first launch to Mars would be an uncrewed test to determine the environment of the planet such as the presence of natural resources and build the infrastructure necessary to support the company’s Starship flights to and from Mars; that could include landing pads and refueling stations for the reusable rockets.

SpaceX started streaming from its test launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas a few minutes before its scheduled launch time Monday; you can check if Starhopper does get to fly here.

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