SpaceX’s latest Starship prototype was just going live.
The Starship SN10 vehicle (“Serial No. 10”) completed its first “static fire” test on Tuesday (February 23), lighting up all three of its Raptor engines for a few seconds at 6:03 pm EST (2303 GMT) at SpaceX’s South Texas Site, near the Gulf Coast settlement in Boca Chica.
Static fires, where engines ignite briefly while a rocket is anchored to the ground, are a common place of study for SpaceX. If things went well with today’s test, SN10 is still on track to launch soon – perhaps as early as Thursday (Feb. 25) – On a 6-mile-high (10-kilometer) demonstration flight into the skies of South Texas.
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SN10 static fire! Hope it was a really good test. 🔥🚀🔥 @NASASpaceflight pic.twitter.com/J6cVUypRgYFebruary 23, 2021
This is the third high altitude test for a Starship vehicle, following similar complaints in December 2020 and February 2 of this year with two former SN10, SN8 and SN9. Both of those planes went well to the end; SN8 and SN9 went hard on their landing places, exploding in spectacular fireballs.
Flights like this are an important part of the development path for Starship, which SpaceX sees as the vehicle that will make the Mars colony economically viable. The Starship system will consist of two reusable parts: a 165-foot (50-meter) high-altitude spacecraft called Starship and a giant rocket called Super Heavy.
The Starship will eventually have six Raptors, and Super Heavy will sport around 30 of the engines, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said. Starship will be powerful enough to launch itself off the moon and Mars, but the Super Heavy spacecraft needs to get off Earth.
We are very likely to see many more Starship test flights over the coming weeks and months, regardless of how SN10 launches. Musk recently said that SpaceX aims to launch a prototype into Earth’s orbit this year, and envies Starship consistently carrying humans by 2023.
Mike Wall is an author »Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; photos by Karl Tate), a book about finding alien life. Follow us on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.