SpaceX's giant rocket ship was blown over and damaged by powerful winds in Texas - and Elon Musk says repairs will take weeks

elon musk starship test hopper stainless steel illustration rendering twitter january 2019 insider 2x1

Elon Musk/SpaceX via Twitter; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

An illustration of SpaceX's "test hopper," an experimental stainless-steel ship. Though it won't launch into space, the vehicle will help Elon Musk's rocket company work on a large and similar Starship spacecraft for reaching Mars.

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, said that his company's shiny new prototype of a giant rocket was blown over by hurricane-force wind gusts overnight on Tuesday.

"I just heard," he tweeted on Wednesday morning, confirming local on-the-ground reports that the vehicle was no longer vertical. "50 mph winds broke the mooring blocks late last night & fairing was blown over. Will take a few weeks to repair."

SpaceX has worked feverishly to build the vehicle since at its facility in southern Texas since late last year. Musk and Gwynne Shotwell, the president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, call the ship the "test hopper" because it's not designed to launch to Mars or even into orbit around Earth. Instead, the somewhat crude and windowless ship will rocket on "hops" that go no more than about 16,400 feet in the air, according to Federal Communications Commission documents.

In early January, Musk said the rocket ship could start those hops in four to eight weeks, but that timeline no longer looks tenable, given the damage.

The prototype is a critical experimental vehicle whose successes (or failures) will inform how SpaceX works toward a full-scale, orbit-ready prototype of Starship: a roughly 18-story spaceship designed to one day ferry up to 100 people and 150 tons of cargo to Mars.

Musk previously said SpaceX plans to build a taller, orbit-capable version "around June" of this year. He said that rocketship would have "thicker skins (won't wrinkle) & a smoothly curving nose section."

This story is developing.

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