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Elon Musk’s Starship proto is finished, and it’s the most kickass rocket we’ve ever seen

By Elizabeth Rayne
SpaceX Starship

Does this look like the model rocket you fantasized about unwrapping on your birthday as a kid? The difference is that this one is real and will someday blast humans to Mars.

After teasing his monster Starship rocket on Twitter, Musk has finally revealed a retro prototype of the SpaceX rocket that will eventually take astronauts on lunar and Martian missions. It could even be the ultimate flight from city to city on Earth. If that happens, you could end up on the other side of the world in what seems like no time compared to those 16-hour airplane marathons that leave the better half your body numb.

This is not shiny concept art — you’re looking at the real deal. Musk even had to remind the Twitterverse of that.

The blinding chrome finish isn’t just an aesthetic thing. The rocket will get hot enough to melt any kind of paint as it zooms through space, so it was just a practicality that ended up looking really, really cool.

Starship Hopper, as the proto is called, just finished assembly at its Boca Chica, Texas, launch site and should be taking off within the next few weeks. At nine yards wide, the Hopper (named for the suborbital “hops” it will be taking) is as wide as the future Starship that really will carry humans, and the only difference is that the Hopper is slightly shorter and isn’t yet ready to shoot for the moon. That and three Raptor engines versus the seven the finished version will have.

Oh, and the ultimate Starship should be pointier, according to Musk. That may or may not happen. He’s just excited to see it in three dimensions for now.

SpaceX is only in the first phase so far. Hopper test flights will propel the rocket several miles into the sky before it reverts to a controlled descent and touches down. An orbital prototype, which will get a major advantage from the huge Super Heavy rocket boosters, should be finished in June. The final Starship and Super Heavy boosters, both reusable, will be 338 feet of metal. For some perspective, that is about the height of a 31-story skyscraper.

Musk also tweeted that vertical flight tests will be similar to those the Falcon Grasshopper protos went through. The second Grasshopper was airborne for 79 seconds and made it to 2,441 feet on its final test flight.

While Starship Hopper is still on terra firma, anyone hanging out at Boca Chica Beach will get this Instagrammable view.