Featured Image Source: @LabPadre via YouTube/Twitter
SpaceX engineers are working around-the-clock to prepare the next Starship prototype for a test flight at the company's South Texas facility in Boca Chica Beach. The stainless-steel prototype known as Starship SN8, will be the first fully-assembled vehicle to attempt a high-altitude flight. Teams are performing pre-flight preparations and already installed a trio of Raptor engines. These, are a new type of engine designed and manufactured by SpaceX. Unlike the company's Falcon 9 rocket that is powered by RP-1, rocket-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen, Raptors are powered by cryogenic methane and also liquid oxygen.
If Starship SN8 passes all the pre-flight preparation tests, the vehicle will be launched approximately 50,000 feet above Boca Chica Beach --that is equivalent to about 15-kilometers. SpaceX plans to test the vehicle's aerodynamic fins as they attempt to perform a "belly flop" dive maneuver in-flight. But before this launch could happen engineers must ensure the three Raptor engines are working optimally.
Over the past days, teams have been working with Starship SN8's engines to perform a static-fire test, in which the Raptor engines will be briefly ignited to assess their performance. Each Raptor engine is equipped with two small preburner engines that power a turbopump, one for methane fuel the other for liquid oxygen. On Sunday, engineers completed a pre-burner test, that prepares the engines for an upcoming full-duration static-firing. Boca Chica residents captured footage of last night's test, video below.
Engineers have ignited Raptor engines during static-fire tests individually in the past; SpaceX has not ignited three Raptor engines simultaneously. Raptor engines can each produce over 200 tons of thrust at full throttle. The upcoming static-fire test will be the first time engineers at Boca Chica experience the powerful force of three Raptors fired together. According to Cameron County's Boca Chica Beach road closure website, SpaceX may attempt to perform a static-fire test as soon as tonight, Monday, October 19, during a test window that opens at opens 9:00 p.m. and ends at 6:00 a.m. CDT. If the test is not completed tonight, SpaceX has back-up opportunities scheduled for October 20 to 22 at the same time every day. You can watch SpaceX operations Live 24 hours a day in the video below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
WATCH SPACEX OPERATIONS AT BOCA CHICA LIVE