This is the company’s eighth prototype of Starship (dubbed SN8). It flew substantially higher than the 150-meter “hop” the fifth iteration made in August and the sixth made in September—each with only one engine. (SN7 didn’t fly; it was exploded deliberately as part of a pressure test.) SpaceX founder Elon Musk had previously estimated only a one-third chance of success that SN8, armed with three engines, would safely fly and land.
A giant among rockets: SpaceX first unveiled Starship to the world in September 2019, on the 11th anniversary of the company’s first rocket launch. It’s a behemoth, standing over 50 meters tall, and weighs over 1,400 tons (1,270 metric tons) when loaded with fuel. In its final form, the vehicle will double as a six-engine, second-stage booster that sits on top of a giant first-stage booster, the Super Heavy (currently under development). It will carry more than 100 tons of cargo and passengers to deep-space destinations.
Like the company’s other major space vehicles, Starship is designed to be reusable, to lower the overall cost of spaceflight for robotic and crewed missions alike.