Enlarge / For now, Starship's first mission will be to the Moon. (credit: Elon Musk/Twitter)
For months in south Texas, SpaceX employees have been assembling a test version of the upper stage for its next-generation launch system. This prototype "Starship" is far from space-worthy, but it will allow the company to test the vehicle's ability to "hop" from the spaceport and then land propulsively back on the ground.
On Friday, the company sent a notice to nearby residents saying it planned to conduct testing of the vehicle as soon as the week of March 18, and that it would be closing the main roadway of Highway 4 to non-residents during the tests. Presumably this is to cut down on the gawkers who have been posting images and video from the site on a daily basis across various social media sites.
On Sunday, company founder Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter that SpaceX was indeed close to beginning tests. Musk said that integration work remained to be done on test vehicle and its Raptor rocket engine, and that the first hops would lift off, but only "barely." Eventually the "Starhopper" test vehicle will have three engines, but for now it appears as though the company will start with just one.
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