SPACEX has completed a key test of its new Starship rocket that the firm hopes will one day carry astronauts to the Moon and Mars.
The California company, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, fired up three Raptor engines attached to its latest Starship prototype on Tuesday evening.
The "static fire" was the fourth such test performed by SpaceX's eighth prototype, called SN8.
Static fires involve lighting the engines up while the spacecraft remains stationary on the ground to collect vital data ahead of full flights.
Following the not-so-lift-off, Musk, 49, said SN8 could go on to make its maiden flight, blasting up to nine miles high as soon as next week.
Describing the manoeuvres the spacecraft will perform during the unmanned voyage, he tweeted on Tuesday: "Goals are to test 3 engine ascent, body flaps, transition from main to header tanks & landing flip."
Starship is the next generation of SpaceX rocket designed for long-distance trip to faraway worlds.
Musk hopes to use the rocket to launch astronauts to the Moon and Mars within the next decade, and to set up a Martian colony by 2050.
It's still in the early stages of development, and trial "launches" throughout this year have taken the form of short hops of a few hundred feet.
These tests involve a single trash can-shaped engine but the final spacecraft will look a lot more like a traditional rocket, sporting a cone-shaped nose.
The rocket's next trial will involve a full flight launched from SpaceX's Starship facility near Boca Chica in South Texas.
The SN8 prototype will fire 15km (9.3-mile) into the air under three Raptor engines before touching back down on Earth.
Writing on Twitter on Tuesday, Musk said there was only a one-in-three chance the rocket will make it back to Texas in one piece.
"Lot of things need to go right," he said. "But that’s why we have SN9 & SN10."
What is SpaceX?
Here’s what you need to know…
SpaceX is a cash-flushed rocket company that wants to take man to Mars.
It was set up by eccentric billionaire Elon Musk in 2002 and is based in Hawthorne, California.
SpaceX's first aim was to build rockets that could autonomously land back on Earth and be re-used.
Musk hoped the technology would make flying and operating space flights far cheaper.
SpaceX currently uses its reusable rockets to fly cargo to the International Space Station for Nasa.
It also carries satellites and other space tech into orbit for various international governments and companies.
The company took astronauts up to the ISS for the first time in 2020.
Other future missions involve carrying tourists and astronauts to the Moon.
Musk has repeatedly said he believes humanity must colonise Mars to save itself from extinction.
He plans to get a SpaceX rocket to the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s.
Billionaire Musk, who is also CEO of Tesla, hopes to send a million people to Mars in his lifetime using a 1,000-strong fleet of the powerful rockets.
The finished product will stand 165ft (50 metres) tall and boast six of SpaceX's powerful Raptor engines.
According to SpaceX, the contraption will hit speeds of 15,000mph (25,000kph), making it the world's most powerful spacecraft.
In a series of tweets earlier this year, Musk outlined how his Starlink plans would open up space travel to anyone, regardless of their income.
"Needs to be such that anyone can go if they want, with loans available for those who don't have money," he wrote.
Musk's plan involves building an expansive fleet of Starship vehicles, which comprise a huge rocket topped by a bullet-shaped spacecraft.
SpaceX says reusable rockets that can land and take off again make space travel more cost effective, accessible and sustainable.
However, the team has a long way to go before they can conduct Starship's first manned flight.
In other news, SpaceX completed its second successful Starship booster test flight in Setpember.
Musk wants to send humans to Mars as early as 2024 aboard one of the huge rockets.
And, Nasa set a hillside on fire during a recent test of the "most powerful rocket ever built".
What do you think of Musk's plans for Starship? Let us know in the comments!
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