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True to form, SpaceX is continuing to test its Starship rockets in Texas after it completed a record setting 96 missions to space late night yesterday. Friday has been a busy day at SpaceX’s facilities in Boca Chica, Texas as the firm has fired up the engines for both stages of its Starship rocket system. Starship is the world’s largest rocket, and the close of 2023 is seeing SpaceX move fast towards its third orbital test flight amidst chances that the upcoming test might also be the first that sees Starship attempt to deploy a payload to space.
SpaceX Fires Up Starship Super Heavy’s Engines for 10 Second Static Fire Test
Friday is turning out to be an exciting day for SpaceX’s Starship rocket. It is one of the few times when the company has static fired both the first-stage Super Heavy booster and the upper-stage Starship rocket on the same day. On the surface, both these tests appear successful, with the second stage seemingly firing up only one engine.
The first static fire test of the day was for the second stage Starship. This rocket is also NASA’s vehicle of choice to land astronauts on the Moon under the Artemis program. With the space agency slated to launch its first crewed lunar test flight next year, pressure is building on SpaceX to demonstrate key milestones in Starship’s lunar launch profile so that its rockets are ready to fly on the day of launch.
While it is close to impossible to determine how many engines on the second stage were fired unless SpaceX shares the details, footage from the site indicated that one of the six engines was fired. This is part of a landing profile for the rocket, and there is additional speculation that perhaps the third Starship integrated test flight will also try to launch a payload in space.
The Super Heavy rocket booster fired up roughly 90 minutes after the ship static fire. Looking at the footage, it appears that the majority of its engines were tested roughly ten seconds before the test ended. Static fire tests are among the most important for rocket launches since they allow engineers to pick out any problems before potentially catastrophic damage at the time of launch.
Ever since it first started testing Starship rockets in 2020, SpaceX has covered quite a lot of distance when it comes to Starship production and testing. Over the course of this time period, the firm has developed new Raptor engines, built out a new water deluge system at the pad, introduced upgrades to the Super Heavy booster and sped up its manufacturing.
Manufacturing will be another crucial challenge for SpaceX to solve if it’s to achieve its goals with Starship. Recent statements by the firm’s chief Elon Musk outline that SpaceX has to produce at least 100 second stage Starships in a year if it wants to colonize Mars by the mid 2050s. This is because while the Super Heavy will return to the launch site within minutes of a launch, it will take the second stage Starship much longer to return.
Naturally, this will require more Starships that are ready to launch after the Heavy’s return, and to support this aggressive cadence, SpaceX is also building a second launch site at its facilities in Texas. Should today’s tests have been successful, then some of the next steps before a third flight test include a full stack, inspections of the ship and booster, pad inspections and potential ship repairs.
Just completed static fire test of Flight 3 Super Heavy Booster pic.twitter.com/m0n8RooOlA
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 29, 2023