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SpaceX's Starhopper completes final test

SpaceX’s Starhopper in flight. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX's Starhopper just made its highest leap yet, flying 150 meters into the air above the company's test facility in South Texas before coming in for a smooth landing.

Why it matters: Founder Elon Musk hopes that one day SpaceX will help bring about a future where people are living in a city on Mars, and Starhopper — a prototype of the company's Starship vehicle — is one of the first small steps toward that goal.

Details: This marked the final test for the Starhopper prototype, with two more advanced prototypes waiting in the wings.

  • Starship is designed to one day be able to transport up to 100 people at a time to Mars atop the company's Super Heavy rocket, which has not yet made its debut.
  • According to a June report in Space News, the first commercial Starship launches could happen as early as 2021.
  • Starship and Super Heavy are expected to launch a group of artists around the Moon in 2023 as part of the Dear Moon project.

Background: Starship and Super Heavy build on the hard-won reusability SpaceX has developed with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

  • Super Heavy is expected to be reusable, with Starship able to take off and land on a variety of surfaces and in various conditions.

The bottom line: The Starhopper launch and landing was a pretty awe-inspiring thing to behold, even via webcast, but SpaceX still has a long way to go — and many more tests to get through — before it has a viable way to bring people to Mars.

Go deeper: Watch a replay of the Starhopper test.