SpaceX Starhopper Test: Cops Warn Residents Near Launchpad of Potential Explosions

If things go wrong, SpaceX's largest Starhopper test to date might be powerful enough to destroy homes nearby.

SpaceX's Starhopper launch on Monday will be the most powerful to date.
SpaceX’s Starhopper test on Monday will be the most powerful to date. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

After two weeks of waiting for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clearance, SpaceX is finally set to test launch its Starhopper rocket, a prototype for its future Mars exploration vehicle, Monday night in Texas.

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The test will be the mightiest SpaceX has done for the Starhopper program, aiming to send the reusable rocket 500 feet in the sky and land it back on its launchpad. The liftoff will be so powerful that it could potentially blow out the windows of residential homes sitting too close to the launchpad if things go wrong.

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Over the weekend, residents in a small Texas village called Boca Chica, located a few miles from SpaceX’s launch site, received printed notices from local police advising them to stay away from their homes during the Starhopper test on Monday night.

“There is a risk that a malfunction of the SpaceX vehicle during flight will create an overpressure event that can break windows,” the notice read. “It is recommended that you consider temporarily vacating yourself, other occupants, and pets, from the area during the Space Flight Activities.”

Local police said they would sound sirens about 10 minutes before the liftoff and advised residents to stay outside—at least until the sirens are over.

“I’m very angry. I feel like we are in a war zone running out of our houses so they won’t collapse on us,” a Boca Chica resident since 1992 told Business Insider on Sunday.

“I am shocked, angry, and concerned about what kind of damage I might sustain. Also bewildered as far as what to do that day. I don’t know how to prepare for this,” said another local resident.

SpaceX has conducted two Starhopper test launches in Boca Chica in the past, but this was the first time local police had to issue damage warnings to residents. During past launches, SpaceX established a “clearance zone” of about 1.5 miles in radius around the launchpad and set up “soft” checkpoints a few miles further out.

Because Monday’s test will be significantly larger in scale than previous ones, the clearance zone should be expanded accordingly. Most local residents live within two miles from the launchpad, meaning that, in case of an accident, Starhopper’s shockwave could be powerful enough to blow up their windows from a distance.


Correction: A previous version of this article inaccurately described the Starhopper test as a launch, which means an official payload mission by SpaceX terms. The article has been updated with the accurate height Starhopper achieved on Monday. 

SpaceX Starhopper Test: Cops Warn Residents Near Launchpad of Potential Explosions