SpaceX hot fire tests its Starship vehicle three times in four hours


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Image of the spacecraft on the launch pad.
Zoom in / The sun shines around Starship SN8’s lower fin on December 9, 2020.

Trevor Mahlman

On Wednesday, in southern Texas, SpaceX launched its latest prototype not one or two times. Instead, engineers and technicians refueled and test-fired the SN9 prototype and the Raptor rocket engines three times in under four hours.

After the first three tests, SpaceX founder and chief engineer said On Twitter, “Today at SpaceX is all about the practice of starting the Starship’s engine. The ship is held in place by massive pins while the motors are running.” After the third test, Emphasized musk All three tests were completed without major problem.

Conducting three tests like this in quick succession is a remarkable achievement, and indicates the maturity of the spaceship hardware, ground systems, and the procedures for the SpaceX launch program. The goal, Musk said, is to reach a point where one can “jump and go” to Mars. This ability remains years into the future, if ever achieved. But the company appears to be making progress towards a solid launch system.

Assuming the data from Wednesday’s engine tests are favorable, the next step for SN9 is likely to start and fly. The car is already in the launch pad, and Musk and his engineers will now conduct a “readiness” review in advance of what is expected to be another test flight of about 12.5 km, similar to the one he made. SN8 vehicle in December. The objective would be to successfully land, after the SN8 has met a fiery end at the landing position after an almost perfect flight.

SpaceX He got the approval From the Federal Aviation Administration to launch its SN9 on Thursday, Friday or Saturday from its facility near Boca Chica Beach in southern Texas. They will likely be able to change SN9 to try flying as soon as Thursday. However, there are concerns over the upper level winds, which appear hostile until Saturday at least.

Sources have suggested that SpaceX is keen to go ahead with SN9 flying, as it is close to finishing assembling the Starship’s next prototype, the SN10, at its nearby high bay facilities. The company is going ahead to fly this car possibly as soon as the end of January, as it has several other prototypes in different construction states.

The goal in the near term is to demonstrate the Starship’s orbital flight ability. To do this, the company first needs to build and test the Super Heavy missile, which will serve as the first stage of the Starship. This dramatic test will see a spacecraft launch into orbit and then determine whether it can safely return to Earth using a mixture of heat shield tiles on its atmospheric side, a complex set of maneuvers to de-velocity and ultimately a landing control operation.

In an interview Published earlier this month, SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwen Shotwell told Ars that she believes the orbital flight test will likely happen in 2021.


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