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- SpaceX is preparing to launch and hover a small rocket ship called Starhopper in Texas.
- The vehicle is an early prototype meant to test plans for a far larger vehicle, called Starship, which is being designed to send people to Mars.
- Elon Musk, the rocket company’s founder, says Starhopper should rocket about 65 feet (20 meters) off the ground, hover, move sideways, then land back on its launchpad.
- A group of locals has set up a video feed with multiple cameras to broadcast live video of the attempt, which may happen as soon as Wednesday.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
SpaceX is about to launch a stubby steel rocket ship from the southern tip of Texas, and a group of local residents are hoping to broadcast the attempt live.
The rocket ship is called Starhopper, and it stands more than 60 feet tall and 30 feet wide. A single Raptor rocket engine is attached to its base, and SpaceX plans to test-fire that engine today to show it works.
About 24 hours after the test firing — most likely Wednesday between 3-11 p.m. ET — SpaceX will attempt the main launch. The vehicle should fly about 65 feet (20 meters) into the air, hover, move sideways, and land back on its launchpad near Boca Chica Beach, according to a tweet from SpaceX founder Elon Musk.
Starhopper isn’t designed to go to space; rather, it’s designed to test technology for a far larger and more powerful launch vehicle called Starship. That system could stand nearly 400 feet tall and be capable of sending about 100 people and more than 100 tons of cargo to Mars or the moon.
The launch system is also being designed for full reusability, which may vastly reduce the cost of accessing space. Other versions could be built to deploy hundreds of satellites at a time or rocket paying passengers halfway around the world in about half an hour.
© Kimi TalvitieSpaceX fired up Starhopper for the first time in April. That test secured the rocket ship with giant, bike-chain-like tethers on its legs, and the vehicle lifted no more than a few inches off the ground. Subsequent tests lifted it farther, but not by much.
This week’s test will launch it completely untethered.
A SpaceX spokesperson told Business Insider in an email that the hop-and-hover test is "one in a series of tests designed to push the limits of the vehicle as quickly as possible to learn all we can, as fast as we safely can."
A launch attempt on Wednesday is anything but guaranteed, though.
"As with all development programs, the schedule can be quite dynamic and subject to change," the spokesperson said.
When a Twitter user asked Musk if there would be live-streaming video of the launch, Musk said "sure."
However, SpaceX has yet to confirm that there will indeed be a broadcast. So just in case that doesn’t happen, a group of locals has set up a YouTube live feed of Starhopper’s launch site.
Maria Pointer, who lives near SpaceX’s Texas launch site with her husband Ray, said she teamed up with fellow local Louis Balderas to create the two-camera video feed (embedded below), which runs 24 hours a day.
One camera can rotate 360 degrees and is located on the Pointers’ property; it shows the launchpad from about 1.8 miles away (though it has a powerful zoom). The second camera is located on top of the Sapphire Condominiums building in South Padre Island, which is nearly 6 miles away from SpaceX’s launch pad.
Pointer told Business Insider that the feed’s slogan is "showing the valley to the future" because "kids in Brownsville need to see what’s going on" at SpaceX’s launch site.
The cameras often switch between views, show live weather and launchpad conditions, and display other information.
SpaceX may do its own broadcast of Starhopper’s next big "hop" — if so, we will update this post with information about how to watch it.
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