SpaceX’s latest Starship prototype just roared to life.
The Starship SN10 vehicle (“Serial No. 10”) performed its first “static fire” test on Tuesday (February 23) and illuminated the three Raptor engines for a few seconds at 18:03 EST (2303 GMT) on SpaceX South. Texas area, near the Gulf Coast settlement in Boca Chica Village.
Static fires, where engines ignite briefly while a rocket is anchored to the ground, are a common precaution for SpaceX. If all went well with today’s test, SN10 is set to launch soon – perhaps as early as Thursday (February 25) ̵
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Static fire from Starship SN10! Hopefully it was a great test. 🔥🚀🔥 @ NASASpaceflight pic.twitter.com/J6cVUypRgY February 23, 2021
It will be the third altitude test for a Starship vehicle, after similar hunts in December 2020 and February 2 this year by SN10’s two closest predecessors, SN8 and SN9. Both of these flights went well all the way to the end; SN8 and SN9 slammed hard on the landing pads and exploded in dramatic fireballs.
Such flights are a crucial part of the development path for Starship, which SpaceX sees as the vehicle that will make Mars colonization economically feasible. The Starship system will consist of two fully reusable parts: a 50 meter high spacecraft called Starship and a large rocket known as the Super Heavy.
The latest Starship will have six Raptors, and Super Heavy will have around 30 of the engines, says SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk. Starship will be powerful enough to shoot out of the moon and Mars, but the spacecraft needs the Super Heavy to get out of Earth.
We will probably see many more Starship test flights in the coming weeks and months, no matter how the SN10 launch goes. Musk recently said that SpaceX aims to launch a prototype for Earth’s orbit this year, and he envisions Starship carrying people regularly by 2023.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the pursuit of alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.