SpaceX just fired up the latest Starships prototype, and keeps the vehicle on track for a test flight at altitude this week.
The three more Raptor engines Starship SN11 (“Serial No. 11”) ignited briefly today (March 22) at 9:56 AM EDT (1356 GMT) during a static fire test at SpaceX’s South Texas facility, near the Gulf Coast village of Boca Chica.
Static fire tests, in which engines ignite while a vehicle remains grounded in the ground, are a standard advance check for SpaceX rockets. SN11’s upcoming flight takes the vehicle in stainless steel to a maximum altitude of approx. 1
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SpaceX develops Starship to transport humans and cargo to the moon, Mars and other distant destinations. The architecture consists of two reusable components – a 50 meter high spacecraft called Starship and a giant first stage booster known as the Super Heavy. Both vehicles will be powered by Raptor engines – six for Starship and about 30 for Super Heavy.
Three star ship prototypes have already taken to the skies on test flights at high altitude in recent months. SN8 and SN9 worked very well for touchdown, exploded when they hit the landing plate. SN10, which flew on March 3, did even better: the prototype landed in one piece, but exploded about eight minutes later.
SpaceX will soon begin to put Super Heavy through its paces as well. Last week, the company’s founder and CEO Elon Musk unveiled the very first Super Heavy ever, which he described as a “production explorer.” The next Super Heavy that SpaceX is building will actually fly, said the billionaire entrepreneur.
We should expect many Starship and Super Heavy tests in the coming weeks and months. Musk recently said that SpaceX aims to launch an orbital test flight with Starship this year, and that he expects the spacecraft rocket duo to be fully operational by 2023.
SpaceX first tried to light up Starship SN11 last Monday (March 15), but the static fire attempt was interrupted.
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.