SpaceX has launched its new prototype starship for the first time.
All three SN9 vehicle engines fired for approximately one second today (January 6) at 5:07 PM EST (2200 GMT) during a static fire test at the SpaceX facility in South Texas near the village of Boca Chica on the Gulf Coast.
Static fires, in which rocket engines ignite while a vehicle remains anchored to the ground, are a pre-flight routine. And SN9 (“Serial Number 9”) will take off soon, if all goes according to plan: SpaceX is preparing the vehicle for a test flight that should be similar to the epic made last month by its predecessor.
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SpaceX’s prototype SN9 spacecraft performs its first static fire test, on January 6, 2021, in this footage captured by SPadre.com (Image credit: SPadre.com)
On December 9, SN8, which was powered by three of SpaceX’s next-generation Raptor engines, such as the SN9, acted out the first high-altitude jump of the Starship program, flying approximately 7.8 miles (12.5 kilometers) in the southern skies of Texas. (They’ve also flown three previous single-engine prototypes, but all have reached a maximum altitude of about 500 feet or 150 meters.)
SN8 did not block its landing and exploded in a dramatic fireball. But the vehicle has achieved virtually every other milestone that SpaceX had set, the founder and CEO of the leading company. Elon Musk to declare the flight a great success.
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SpaceX is developing Starship to get people and payloads to the Moon, Mars, and other distant destinations, and ultimately to meet all of the company’s spaceflight needs. The system consists of two elements: a 50 meter tall spaceship called the Starship and a giant first stage booster known as the Super Heavy.
Both Starship and Super Heavy will be completely and quickly reusable, Musk said. Super Heavy will return to Earth for vertical landings after lifting the spacecraft into flight, as the early stages of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets already do. But Starship’s touchdowns will be even more accurate than the Falcons’, ideally occurring directly at the launch pad to improve delivery times, Musk recently announced.
The Starship spacecraft, meanwhile, will make many round trips between Earth and Mars, or whatever other destination it’s headed for. The vehicle only needs about 30 super-heavy engines to get off our relatively bulky planet; The latest six-engine starship will be powerful enough to lift off from the surfaces of the moon and Mars, Musk said.
Today’s static fire was captured on video by dedicated Starship watchers like the sightseeing site. Spadre.com, who views Starship live webcast on YouTube. It may not be the only test of its kind performed by SN9 before taking flight. For example, SN8 carried out four static fires over the course of more than a month before its high-altitude jump.