Spacex to Swap Two Engines Out of Starship Prototype

This week, SpaceX conducted no fewer than three static fire tests on the spaceship’s latest prototype, a heavy-duty launcher designed to transport astronauts from Earth to the moon and eventually even to Mars. Testing and developing is a slow process, however, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has revealed that the company needs to swap out two of the prototype’s engines before proceeding with its big test, which involves the rocket blowing up.

On Wednesday, January 13, the Starship SN9 prototype was put through its paces in three tests that fired the missile’s engines but left the prototype attached to the ground. The three tests were successful, and Musk happily tweeted that the SpaceX team had collected all of the data they needed for the test.

SpaceX observers hoped that the prototype would soon be ready for a high altitude hop test that would fire the engines and raise the prototype from the ground into the air before returning to Earth.

However, it looks like we’ll have to wait a bit longer for the SN9 to hop test. Musk said on Twitter that two of the spacecraft’s Raptor engines needed “minor repairs” and would need to be replaced with new engines before the next round of testing can take place.

Two of the motors must be easily repaired and are therefore turned off

– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 15, 2021

In the past, replacing an engine was a lengthy affair that took up to several weeks. However, the good news for those who want to see the SN9 fly is that Musk also announced that the company has made “significant improvements” to the engine swap process and that the process should “take a few hours at most”. This message means that the new engines will likely need to be tested in another static fire test before the hop test can be performed.

The previous prototype’s hop test, SN8, ended in a dramatic ball of fire as it landed hard on the ground. However, it performed its belly-flop descent maneuver, and Musk confirmed that the team had gathered all the data it needed before it was destroyed.

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