What Elon Musk's Texas visit this weekend tells us about SpaceX's new interplanetary Starshi
SpaceX founder Elon Musk landed Saturday outside Waco to conduct tests of his redesigned Raptor rocket engine.
The successful static tests of the new engine signal progress toward the eventual test flights of Musk's Starship prototype, nicknamed Starhopper, which he aims to reach Mars.
The company, which operates a rocket-engine-testing facility on a 4,300-acre site in McGregor, believes it is making leaps and bounds in the development of its interplanetary spaceship.
The engine now sitting in Texas is a 200-ton class, meaning it has nearly double the thrust of any SpaceX engine in 15 years of development, according to Teslarati.
In early January, Musk said testing of the Starship hopper could begin in four to eight weeks but noting that "unforeseen issues" could emerge.
He was right. Strong winds in South Texas knocked the Starship over, causing damage to the top of the craft and pushing its debut back "a few weeks," Musk said on Twitter.
The successful tests of SpaceX's Raptor engine hold promise that orbital testing of the Starship is on the horizon, meaning a flight with enough propulsion to put it into orbit rather than coming immediately back to Earth.
The SpaceX founder has said previously that this prototype is not at full height and is suborbital, though he is aiming for an orbital launch around mid-2019.
Some see Musk's hasty testing schedule as evidence the company is under financial pressure after a 10 percent reduction in its workforce, a decision to streamline engine development for Starship's launch and a lack of known customers for the ship.
Musk recently brought his interplanetary rocket testing to Boca Chica Beach in South Texas, instead of California. The decision was made to centralize operations at one location because the rockets' "size makes them very difficult to transport," Musk said.