SpaceX Installs All Of Starship SN20's Raptors, Engine Testing Could Start As Soon As Next Week

SpaceX Installs All Of Starship SN20's Raptors, Engine Testing Could Start As Soon As Next Week

Work never stops at SpaceX’s Starbase facility where engineers are working to develop the Starship launch system that will enable humanity to land the first crew on Mars within this decade. SpaceX aims to have a space-ready vehicle before the year 2023, when the company targets to launch the first civilian passengers on a voyage around the Moon.

South Texas’ Boca Chica Village looks like a film set for a futuristic Sci-Fi movie but real work is getting done every day towards meeting the company’s ambitious goals. SpaceX engineers are preparing to perform the first Starship flight to orbit. SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the orbital test flight attempt could take place in November if the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) completes an environmental review and grants SpaceX a flight license to continue spaceflight activities at the sandy beach. It is unclear when the FAA will complete the review.

For the past couple weeks, teams are preparing the Starship SN20 prototype for more pre-flight testing. They will soon test-fire all the methane-fueled Raptor engines that will propel it into orbit.  Local residents shared that technicians finished installing all six methane-fueled Raptor engines over Halloween weekend.  It marks the first time that all engines are fully integrated with Starship’s fuel valves and avionics systems, which indicates SpaceX is ready to move to the next phase of pre-flight testing that involves test-firing the sea-level Raptor engines as the vehicle remains grounded to the launch mount. According to Cameron County Boca Chica Beach State Highway 4 road closure announcements, SpaceX could begin to conduct engine testing as soon as next week. Road closures are scheduled starting on Monday, November 8 to Wednesday, November 10 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Central Time (daily).

Starship SN20 is equipped with three sea-level Raptors designed for atmospheric flight and three vacuum-optimized Raptors (R-Vac) that have a much larger nozzle, designed for propulsion in outer space. Engineers already tested a pair of R-Vac engines last month. The first was a preburner test on October 19, followed by a pair of static-fire tests that were performed on October 21st. During the second ignition, engineers lit up two engines simultaneously at the launch pad for the first time. The R-Vac engines will probably be tested again alongside the standard engines.

The upcoming tests will take the company closer towards a debut orbital flight test. Engineers already completed a proof test of the stainless-steel Starship SN20 spacecraft in mid-October. If Starship SN20 passes all pre-flight testing it could become the first spacecraft to launch from South Texas to orbit and attempt a return from space to land in the ocean off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. Engineers will also conduct similar pre-flight testing on the monstrous Super Heavy Booster 4 rocket that will help propel Starship SN20 to orbit with a total of 29 powerful Raptor engines. The booster is still undergoing engine installation and has not officially initiated its independent test campaign. 

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About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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