By GAIGE DAVILA
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
After 5 p.m. on the afternoon of August 27, a loud rumbling could be heard on South Padre Island and in the Port Isabel area for nearly a minute. The source of the sound was the SpaceX spacecraft Starhopper, a prototype of SpaceX’s planned starship vehicle, successfully completing a “hop,” or a flight test, of over 490 feet. Even with strong wind gusts and nearly triple-digit heat, the spacecraft landed without incident near SpaceX’s launch platform on Boca Chica Beach.
Starhopper was supposed to launch on Monday, August 26, but SpaceX cancelled the “hop” at the last minute, citing an issue with the igniters of the spacecraft, a source at SpaceX told the PRESS.
Starhopper had its last “hop” on July 25, flying upwards at around 60 feet, before coming down and starting a brush fire.
Maria Pointer, who runs the SpaceX Boca Chica Facebook page and hosts media galleries at her home in Boca Chica Village, said this “hop” was more exciting than the last.
“It may have been a ‘hop’ test, but I saw a leap in technology,” Pointer said
Pointer said the brush fire started by Starhopper’s first “hop” was anxiety inducing, and was a concern for Boca Chica Village residents. But when Starhopper ascended and descended without incident, those fears went away.
“It was a safe feeling of cool,” Pointer said.
Starhoppper uses a “Raptor” engine, powered by liquid methane and oxygen. The Raptor engine is currently being developed by SpaceX for eventual space travel, according to a report by MIT Technology Review.
Cameron County Emergency Management warned residents of Boca Chica Village to vacate their homes between 4:00 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. with a written notice on Saturday, August 24, in case Starhopper malfunctioned. A malfunction risked “an overpressure event” powerful enough to break windows, the notice said. The notice was then applied to Tuesday. Pointer said she was not aware of any windows broken in Boca Chica Village during the launch.