It looks like the shiny new Starship prototype SpaceX has entered the trial phase.
Full size Starship Mk1 vehicle "breathe" during a pressure test seen last night (November 18) at the SpaceX facility near the village of Boca Chica in South Texas.
This milestone was captured and posted on Twitter by @SpacepacereIsle, which has tracked activity closely on the Boca Chica site. Another Starship observer, @bocachicagal, got a good recording from the pressure test too. He is a member of the NASASpaceflight site, which is share the video on YouTube.
Related: SpaceX's Starship and Super Heavy Rocket in Pictures
SpaceX founder and CEO, Elon Musk revealed Mk1 stainless-steel in late September during its annual update on Starship, the company's in-room transportation system. Its architecture consists of a 165-foot (50-meter) spacecraft called Starship and a large rocket known as Super Heavy.
Both of these vehicles will be reused quickly and repeatedly, Musk stressed, helping reduce spaceflight costs and enabling the achievement of ambitious exploration. Imagine SpaceX Starship helping humanity colonize the moon and Mars, and perhaps travel further, to the cold ice moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
Starship will also fly unmanned missions – for example, launching satellites into Earth orbit and carrying scientific equipment to the moon. Indeed, NASA announced yesterday that SpaceX is now eligible to bid a month shipping contract using Starship and Super Heavy.
Testing milestones can begin come quickly and furious now for Mk1. During the opening of September, Musk said that the newly assembled prototype would conduct unmanned flight tests to an altitude of around 12 miles (20 kilometers), possibly starting within the next few months.
And similar activities can happen immediately on the Atlantic Coast too. SpaceX is building a full size Starship prototype called Mk2 at its facility on Florida's Space Coast, arguing that some competition between companies will improve Starship's final design.
The final and operational version can begin launching satellites into Earth orbit in early 2021, said a SpaceX representative. And during NASA's teleconference yesterday, company president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said that SpaceX aims to have Starship ready for the first uncrewed moon mission in 2022.
The company is targeting crew missions for next year: Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has booked a Starship trip for months, with launches currently scheduled for 2023.
Mk1 and Mk2 will not be the first successful Starship prototype. The short, fat, single engine version, called Starhopper, accessed several short unmanned flights in South Texas before retiring at the end of August. (Mk1 and Mk2 have three engines, at least initially, while the final Starship will have six, Musk said.)
Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out there"(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.