Elon Musk is planning to make some changes to SpaceX's Starship Hopper rocket before it is launched to Mars.
The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla recently posted a photo of the Starship Hopper test-flight rocket. Many thought it was just a rendering of the rocket at first, but Musk clarified that the stainless steel construction was definitely real. Later, Musk may have also hinted at some future plans for the rocket on Twitter.
After retweeting an article about the Starship Hopper test rocket, the billionaire wrote that it "needed to be made real." He also commented that the rocket needed to be "more pointy."
We'll have to wait and see if Musk is serious about giving the rocket a sharper tip.
Meanwhile, the SpaceX Starship Hopper has drawn comparisons to the rocket in Tintin's "Destination Moon," and it turns out this may have been intentional.
During the unveiling of the Big Falcon Rocket design in September last year, Musk revealed that he was a big fan of Tintin. "I love the Tintin rocket design, so I kind of wanted to bias it towards that," he said of the Starship rocket.
Indeed, SpaceX's 120-foot-tall Starship Hopper prototype is a tubular, pointy-topped rocket with three rear "fins," which serve as landing pads. This version of the Starship Hopper won't be able to send men and women to Mars just yet, however, as Musk said the design of the final rocket will be a little different.
"This is for suborbital VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) tests," Musk tweeted. "Orbital version is taller, has thicker skins (won't wrinkle) & a smoothly curving nose section."
The Starship Hopper test flights will be similar to SpaceX's Grasshopper program. In this case, the prototype will take off and look to hover 5 kilometers above the ground before landing back on the ground.
The Starship Hopper's "Raptor" engines will reportedly be test-fired next month. Musk then plans to start test-flights in March or April.
The Starship Hopper test-flight rocket was assembled at a SpaceX factory near the Boca Chica village in south Texas. Musk has been updating his Twitter followers on the construction of the hopper since December. At the time, he revealed that they used stainless steel for the rocket as the material is better at withstanding both extremely hot and cold temperatures than carbon fiber and will need less shielding.
Musk also said that the rocket will look like "liquid silver" when it is completely finished as the exterior will get too hot for paint.
This article was first published in IBTimes US. Permission required for reproduction.