SpaceX Starship Is Almost Ready for Big High-Altitude Test

SpaceX is almost ready for the next major test of its Starship SN9 prototype: the altitude test, where the rocket fires its engines and soars into the air for the first time. Previous high altitude testing has shown Starship prototypes to fly nearly 8 miles above the ground, although the last test resulted in a ball of fire when the SN8 prototype hit the ground and was destroyed.

Since then, the company has been working on testing its newer SN9 prototype. With a fifth static fire test of the SN9 on Friday, January 22nd, with the engines fired by the prototype left attached to the ground, everything should be ready for the next section of testing to take place soon.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared a picture of the SN9 prototype going through its static fire test on Twitter, showing the dramatic plumes of smoke and flame around the prototype as it fired its engines:

SN9 pic.twitter.com/kwTVwM7MBn

– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 22, 2021

Last week, SpaceX ran three static fire tests on the prototype, and observers were hoping the company could run its altitude test this weekend. However, two of the engines used in these tests had to be easily repaired and replaced before further testing could be performed.

Performing engine swaps used to be a lengthy process, but SpaceX seems to have gotten more efficient and was able to swap out the engines in a matter of days. Now that the new engines are installed and tested, the prototype will soon be ready for its big test.

This means that the SN9 altitude test could be done as early as Monday, January 25th, according to space.com.

SpaceX’s goal is to develop a heavy-duty vehicle that can transport cargo and passengers to the moon and eventually Mars. The rocket is powered by Raptor engines, which use liquid methane and liquid oxygen as fuel instead of the kerosene used by the Merlin engines of the company’s current missile, the Falcon 9. The spaceship is said to be a fully reusable vehicle that can take off and land vertically, which would make reuse more efficient and potentially allow quick turnaround times between take-off and landing.

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