SpaceX prototype moved to launch pad

Tethered test flights to begin in days ahead at Boca Chica Beach

In this file photo, work continues on the SpaceX prototype rocket Starship hopper at Boca Chica Beach. (Miguel Roberts | The Brownsville Herald)

About the same time Friday morning that SpaceX’s unmanned Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully splashed down in the Atlantic after a trip to the International Space Station, the booster portion of SpaceX’s Starship Hopper prototype was being moved from the construction site at Boca Chica Beach to the launch pad.

SpaceX spokesman James Gleeson said in an email that the Starship prototype was moved to the launch pad in preparation for testing, though the public won’t be able to see the first tests.

“SpaceX will conduct checkouts of the newly installed ground systems and perform a short static fire test in the days ahead,” he said. “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 will establish a safety zone perimeter in coordination with local enforcement and signage will be in place to alert the community prior to the testing.”

This morning marked the first successful mission of the four-seater Crew Dragon, which SpaceX designed to carry NASA astronauts to the ISS.