It looks like SpaceX's shiny new Starship prototype has entered the testing phase.
Full size Starship Mk1 vehicle "breathed" during an obvious pressure test last night (November 18) at SpaceX's facilities near the South Texas village of Boca Chica.
The milestone was captured and posted on Twitter by @SpacePadreIsle, which has been actively following the Boca Chica website. Another Starship guard, @bocachicagal, got good pictures of the pressure test as well. She is a member of the NASASpaceflight website, which shared his video on YouTube.
related: SpaceX's Starship and Super Heavy Rocket in Pictures
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk revealed stainless steel Mk1 in late September during its annual update on Starship, the company's deep transport system. The architecture consists of a 165 meter high (50 meter) spaceship called Starship and a huge rocket known as Super Heavy.
Both of these vehicles will be reused quickly and repeatedly, Musk emphasized, which helps lower the cost of space flight and enable ambitious exploration feats. SpaceX imagines Spaceship help humanity to colonize the moon and Mars, and perhaps travel even further afield, out to Jupiter and Saturn's icy moons.
Starship will also fly unfinished missions – for example, launching satellites to Earth orbit and ferry science gear to the moon. In fact, NASA announced yesterday that SpaceX is now eligible to bid on lunar contracts uses Starship and Super Heavy.
The test milestones can begin comes quickly and furiously now for Mk1. During the disclosure in September, Musk said the newly assembled prototype will carry out tested flights to an altitude of about 20 miles, perhaps beginning in the next few months.
And similar activities may soon take place on the Atlantic coast. SpaceX builds a full-size Starship prototype, called the Mk2, at its Florida space coast facilities, reasoning that some competition within companies will improve Starship's final design.
The latest, operational version could begin launching satellites to the Earth's orbit as early as 2021, SpaceX representatives have said. And during a NASA teleconference yesterday, the company's president and chief executive Gwynne Shotwell said that SpaceX aims to have Starship ready for its first unoccupied lunar mission 2022.
The company is gearing up for a crew assignment for next year: Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has booked a Moon-Stars trip around the moon, with the liftoff currently scheduled for 2023.
Mk1 and Mk2 will not be the first prototypes from Starship to come from the ground. A short, chubby, single-engine version named Starhopper got a few short flights in South Texas before retiring in late August. (Mk1 and Mk2 have three engines, at least initially, while the last Starship will have six, Musk has said.)
Mike Wall's book on the quest 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.