The next generation of SpaceX Star vehicle just take a big step towards the next final stage.
Early this morning (October 20), SpaceX set fire to the Raptor’s three engines of its SN8 (Serial No. 8) prototype in a brief “static fire” test at the company’s South Texas site near the coastal village of Boca Chica.
Neither SpaceX, nor the founder and CEO of the company Elon Musk he had commented publicly on the process at the time this post was published, but it seems to have developed well. (SpaceX observers keep the Boca Chica site under constant surveillance, so there is third-party video of the static fire.)
Connected: Starship and super heavy: SpaceX̵
Starcraft SN8 STATIC FIRE !! The first of its kind triple Raptor Static Fire! Mary (@BocaChicaGal) documents the story again! Tthttps: //t.co/UGPoVVF5dt pic.twitter.com/NzCimSNp9OO October 20, 2020
Static fires, in which engines are ignited while the launch vehicle remains attached to the ground, are a common precursor to flight. And the SN8 is about to launch – an open test flight later this month or next, which will reach a maximum altitude of about 18 miles if all goes according to plan.
This will be the highest ever flying prototype of Starship. Three previous single-engine repetitions reached about 500 feet (150 meters), most recently in August and September this year, when SN5 and SN6 vehicles took to the skies.
SN5 and SN6 looked like grain silos, as SN8 now does. But the latest vehicle will look far more cosmic when it takes off, carrying a nose cone and body-adjusting body covers, Musk said.
These features will probably be installed soon. But the SN8 may commit another static fire before it happens. IN tweet last monthMusk said the SN8 plan included “static fire, crates, static fire, flying up to 60,000 feet and back.”
Numerous prototypes inform about the final design of the Starship, which Musk says will be powered by six Raptors – three versions of the “sea level” as those launched this morning, and three “vacuum” variants with much larger nozzles, which are optimized for use in space. The 165-foot-tall Starship will launch a huge rocket called Super Heavy from Earth on top, which will have about 30 of its own Raptors.
Both vehicles will be fully and quickly reusable. SpaceX eventually plans to use Starship and Super Heavy for all of its space flight needs, from launching satellites to transporting people and payloads to the moon, Mars and other distant destinations.
For example, Starship is in the process of providing moon landing services to NASA Artemis program, which aims to land two astronauts at the south pole of the moon in 2024.
The Raptor engine is also suitable for colonizing Mars, one of Musk and SpaceX’s main long-term goals. The robbers are powered by liquid oxygen and methane, both of which can be made efficiently on the Red Planet using local resources, Musk said. (The Merlin engines that power SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets use liquid oxygen and a form of kerosene.)
Mike Wall is the author of “There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.