SpaceX’s third high-altitude Starship prototype appears to have ignited its trio of Raptor engines, raising the odds of a new launch and landing attempt later this week.
After an earlier attempt that was interrupted before fuel loading began on February 22, SpaceX managed to turn Starship serial number 10 (SN10) and its launch facility for a new attempt ~ 24 hours later. Unlike Starship SN9, which went through four torturous weeks of scrubbing, aborted and non-nominal static fire attempts before finally being cleared for escape; Starship SN10 apparently departed from a similar fate and ignited the Raptor engines with no obvious problem after only two days of real trials.
Of course, it remains to be seen if the test was really successful. Long-distance observations from the outside see little or no room for nuanced interpretation, and the difference between a good and a bad test may be too subtle to detect with the naked eye.
Yesterday’s interrupted attempts never came across activation of the tank farm, but could have been caused by ground support equipment (GSE), the Starship itself or something completely different. In any case, almost exactly 24 hours later, the Starship SN10 fired up all three Raptor engines after a smooth, flawless test flow. The only static fire served as the massive wet rocket (WDR) of the massive steel rocket with live (and combustible) liquid methane and oxygen propellant, making such a clean stream much more impressive and encouraging.
Nevertheless, one of the last remaining residents of Boca Chica Village reported that they had received a standard security alert distributed by SpaceX about 40 minutes after the SN10’s static fire. These alerts serve as reminders for residents to stay away from home windows during static fire testing of Starship to reduce the risk of injury in the event of a given test going wrong and a vehicle exploding.
That could means that SpaceX quickly decided that Tuesday’s static fire was not satisfactory, although it could just as easily be that SpaceX secured its bets in case it had to do about SN10’s static fire on Wednesday 24 February. If Tuesday’s test went well, SpaceX can turn SN10 for a launch attempt as early as Thursday, and go to Friday if a hypothetical Wednesday static fire reduction goes well. Stay tuned for updates (and hopefully confirmation from CEO Elon Musk).