On Saturday, Elon Musk shared an image of a bright and shiny stainless-steel rocket ship gleaming in the sun at SpaceX’s Boca Chica test site in South Texas, near the border city of Brownsville. Musk tweeted a response to a SpaceX follower who asked when the first hopper test would take place. “Aiming for 4 weeks, which probably means 8 weeks, due to unforeseen issues,” Musk tweeted on Saturday morning.
Starship test vehicle under assembly will look similar to this illustration when finished. Operational Starships would obv have windows, etc. pic.twitter.com/D8AJ01mjyR
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 5, 2019
The image of the rocket “Hopper” shows a three-finned ship that looks a lot like the rocket the comic-book character Tintin used in the 1954 adventure “Explorers on the Moon,” reports Space.com. “Starship test vehicle under assembly will look similar to this illustration when finished. Operational Starships would obv have windows, etc.,” Musk tweeted.
Musk and Gwynne Shotwell, the president, and chief operating officer of SpaceX, call the ship the “test hopper” because it’s not designed to launch into orbit around Earth. The prototype spaceship will take short “hops” that go no more than about 16,400 feet in the air, according to Federal Communications Commission documents. The tests of the prototype are critical to how SpaceX will proceed with a full-scale, orbit-ready Starship – a roughly 18-story spaceship designed to one day ferry up to 100 people and 150 tons of cargo. SpaceX is developing both the Starship and the giant rocket called the Super Heavy to take people to the moon, Mars and other destinations in the Solar System.
Musk announced in late December he was, indeed, building the test hopper, releasing an image of the rocket coming together at the company’s launch site in Boca Chica. The actual test vehicle doesn’t exactly look like the shiny, stainless steel version Musk tweeted on Saturday. However, it is a test vehicle and it’s not supposed to look perfect. Who knows – it may fail or explode on launch. As for TinTin’s rocket, Musk had this to say: “I love the ‘Tintin’ rocket design, so I kind of wanted to bias it towards that,” he said during a press conference in September. “If in doubt, go with ‘Tintin.'”