Watch SpaceX Fire up Its Starship Rocket Ahead of Next Flight
SpaceX is preparing for the second high-altitude test of its next-generation Starship rocket.
As part of pre-flight preparations, the commercial transport company ignited a total of three Raptor engines on the SN9 prototype at its plant in Boca Chica, Texas, three times on Wednesday afternoon.
With SN9 expected to take to the skies in the coming days, SpaceX is making sure the rocket is fully operational before the test flight.
SpaceX chief Elon Musk tweeted that the three tests with the rocket were “held down by massive pegs”, later adding that the static fires ended with no issues.
Spaceship SN9 Static Fire (THIRD of the day!)
Hopefully we get a word that everything went well today and that you can start this week!
➡️https: //t.co/eRoZBqx27y pic.twitter.com/f0qAztXoyQ
– Chris B – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) January 13, 2021
The first high-altitude flight test of the Starship prototype took place in December 2020 and sent the rocket to an altitude of around 40,000 feet – similar to a commercial passenger jet.
As planned, the engines were turned off so he could return to Earth. The plan called for a soft landing, similar to how SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are returning, but the rate of descent was too fast and the prototype exploded in a spectacular ball of fire when it hit the ground harder than it could handle.
Still, Musk was happy with the overall performance and shortly thereafter tweeted: “We have all the data we needed!” Added: “Congratulations SpaceX Team Hell yeah!”
Now all eyes are on whether SpaceX can bring the spaceship down gently enough to avoid another fireworks display.
When the technology is fully developed, SpaceX plans to launch Starship – which acts as both a spaceship and a second stage booster – on the massive first-stage Super Heavy rocket powered by 31 Raptor engines.
The long-term goal is to deploy the Starship and Super Heavy rocket as a fully reusable space transportation system that can carry up to 100 people and cargo to orbit, the moon, Mars and possibly beyond.
In October, Musk said an unscrewed tour of Mars could take place as early as 2024, although that date, like so many space-related plans, could well slip.
Initial Starship tests in recent years included more basic prototypes that were subjected to various pressure tests and so-called “hop” tests, where the vehicle was sent several hundred feet into the air before landing back on the ground with varying degrees of success.
There is still no confirmation of the date of the next spacecraft flight, but we will certainly report on it as soon as the news gets through.