SpaceX Could Ignite Super Heavy Booster Raptor Engines For The First Time Next Week

Evelyn Arevalo by Evelyn Arevalo September 11, 2021

SpaceX Could Ignite Super Heavy Booster Raptor Engines For The First Time Next Week

Featured Image Source: SPadre@SpacePadreIsle via Twitter 

The world’s most powerful rocket will soon roar to life at SpaceX’s Starbase launch site in Texas. The monstrous Super Heavy Booster 4 will be the first rocket prototype to propel Starship (SN20) to orbit during the debut orbital flight test. It is equipped with 29 methane-fueled Raptor engines that can generate over 16 million pounds of thrust at full throttle. Engineers plan to launch the stainless-steel spacecraft to orbit from Boca Chica Beach, Texas, and conduct a soft-touchdown in the ocean near a military base off the northwest coast of Kauai, Hawaii. To prepare for this ambitious space flight they will conduct a series of ground tests. Starship SN20 and Super Heavy Booster 4 will undergo individual testing before being stacked again. “Booster static fire on orbital launch mount hopefully next week,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared on September 10.

The 230-foot-tall Super Heavy rocket was transported to the launch pad early September and was placed on the orbital launch tower mount to initiate its pre-flight test campaign. The first test is expected to be a cryogenic proof test during which the vehicle will be subjected to very cold temperatures and pressure with liquid nitrogen. This test is designed to assess the vehicle’s strength. If the vehicle endures this test, SpaceX will ignite Booster 4’s Raptor engines during a static-fire test, the engines will be ignited for a few seconds while the vehicle remains grounded to the mount with hold-on clamps. It is still unknown how many engines will be ignited simultaneously during the ignition test(s) [pending information]. The max number of engines that engineers have tested at once with previous Starship prototypes is three; Igniting 29 Raptors at once is an extremely powerful force to attempt to hold-down at the launch mount without causing damage to the launch pad zone. Maybe SpaceX will risk it and ignite all engines during the first test, Or maybe they plan to conduct multiple static-fire tests with a dozen engines or so. We could know this information as soon as next week!

During an interview with YouTuber Everyday Astronaut, Musk said that he hopes the launch pad area that includes all ground support equipment and ‘Stage Zero’ does not get damaged. “[…] For the first orbital launch our goal is to make it to orbit without blowing up,” Musk said in August, “And frankly, […] if the booster does its job and something goes wrong with the ship, I will still count that as great progress. “To be totally frank, if it takes off without blowing off the stand, Stage Zero, which is much harder to replace than the booster – that will be a victory. So, ‘please do not blow up on the stand,’” he said. ‘Stage Zero’ is the launch pad support structures, which include the launch tower, mount, propellant tanks, flame diverter system, among many other things surrounding the launch pad.


Featured Image Source: SPadre @SpacePadreIsle via Twitter 

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