On Sunday afternoon, one of Musk’s Twitter followers asked if the first hops were really happening this week.
The first hops of the Test Hopper may indeed happen this week.
“Hopefully,” Musk said in response, though he noted that there are always “many issues” when attaching large engines to rocket stages. In this case, the Test Hopper will rely on a next-generation Raptor engine, which is roughly the size of a delivery truck and can produce nearly 450,000 lbs of thrust by rapidly burning liquid methane with liquid oxygen.
“First hops will lift off, but only barely,” Musk added.
Prior to Musk’s comments, SpaceX also revealed a few details about the imminent test launches.
“SpaceX will conduct checkouts of the newly installed ground systems and perform a short static fire test in the days ahead,” the company said in an email to Business Insider. “Although the prototype is designed to perform sub-orbital flights, or hops, powered by the SpaceX Raptor engine, the vehicle will be tethered during initial testing and hops will not be visible from offsite.”
SpaceX ditched the Test Hopper’s damaged nosecone.
Activity at SpaceX’s Boca Chica site began to boom in November. Residents in the area said crews were working almost 24/7 to weld together a structure that at first appeared to be a water tower. Later, it became apparent that they were building a rocket ship: the Test Hopper.
Musk confirmed the vehicle’s construction in December. A few weeks later, he shared a rendering of what it’d look like, followed by a photo showing that SpaceX had completed construction on the outer hull.