SpaceX advanced its Starship program Thursday, conducting a successful test hop of the SN6 prototype.
The vehicle, powered by SpaceX’s next-generation Raptor engine, climbed to about 150 meters above the company’s complex in Boca Chica, Texas before landing safely.
SpaceX conducted a similar test last month of the SN5 prototype. Chief Executive Elon Musk has said the company intends to do several test hops before it attempts a full flight.
The goal of Starship is to one day transport dozens of commercial passengers to space. While early tests of the new rocket are moving in the right direction, Musk said there’s still a great deal of testing to do before the company will feel comfortable sending the rocket to space with humans on board.
“We’ve got to first make the thing work; automatically deliver satellites and do hundreds of missions with satellites before we put people on board,” Musk said this week in an interview.
Musk also said that the company started work this week on construction of the first Super Heavy booster prototype, the bottom half of the rocket containing most of the engines powering Starship into space.
“This is really uncharted territory,” Musk said. “Nobody has ever made a fully reusable orbital rocket. Just to have that at all is pretty significant.”
Musk said the first orbital flight of Starship could take place next year.