One small hop

From Starhopper to Dragon: 3 years of SpaceX in 12 images

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Loren Elliott/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On August 27, 2019, SpaceX’s Starhopper — a low-altitude prototype for the Starship system — made its last test flight.

Starhopper was active for just a year, completing two static test fires and four test flights, the last of which saw it flying 150 meters up before landing safely.

Despite its short history — and despite looking like a tin can with wings — Starhopper was an important part of SpaceX’s evolution, and huge strides have been made since its retirement.

Starhopper was the first craft to test SpaceX’s Raptor engine in flight. A version of that same rocket is still being used by SpaceX today.

Brandon De Young

After Starhopper, it would be nearly a year until the next Starship prototype completed a successful test flight, with SN5’s 150-meter flight on August 4, 2020.

The first high-altitude Starship test flights came with SN8 and SN9 in late 2020 and early 2021. Both prototypes launched successfully, but made hard landings and exploded on the landing pad.


With SN15 in May 2021, SpaceX finally landed a Starship prototype successfully after it reached an altitude of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles).

The next big step for Starship will be SN20’s orbital flight test, which could come as soon as September 2021. SN20 became the tallest rocket in the world in August when it was stacked on the Super Heavy booster.

Elon Musk


SpaceX has also been making progress with its Dragon capsule, which is made to carry cargo and passengers into space.

On May 30, 2020, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon carried two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time, atop a Falcon 9 rocket.



A four-person crew flew to the ISS aboard a Crew Dragon in November 2020. They returned to Earth in May 2021, breaking the record for the longest crewed spacecraft mission ever.

Dragon capsules have also carried supplies to the ISS, most recently on August 29 (seen as a small dot in the lower-left corner of this video).

Next up:

- SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will carry the all-civilian Inspiration4 crew into orbit as early as September 2021.

- SN20 awaits its orbital test flight ahead of plans to send it to the Moon by 2024.



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