This afternoon, SpaceX ignited a Super Heavy booster’s Raptor engines for the first time at Starbase Texas. Super Heavy is undergoing development to propel the Starship spacecraft to orbit. The booster will enable Starship to conserve fuel and be capable of lifting off over 100 tons of cargo and/or 100 passengers to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Engineers aim to develop a Super Heavy booster capable of full reusability to conduct multiple flights per day.
The brief ignition happened during a static-fire test in which the stainless-steel vehicle, identified as Booster 3, was filled with methalox (liquid methane and oxygen) fuel to assess engine performance. The 230-foot-tall booster remained grounded to a test stand as engineers ignited the Raptor engines for a few seconds at around 7:06 p.m. Central Time on Monday, July 19. LabPadre, a local YouTube channel, livestreamed the static-firing of Booster 3 roaring to life – video linked below. Raptor engines can produce over 200 tons of thrust at full throttle. After the brief ignition, SpaceX confirmed it was a successful static-fire test by sharing an incredible photograph of Booster 3 via Twitter.
First static fire test of Super Heavy booster pic.twitter.com/JtvGMfTgPj— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 20, 2021
Full test duration firing of 3 Raptors on Super Heavy Booster!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2021
The final version of Starship will have incredible power with a total of 33 Raptor engines. Only three engines were installed for the static-fire test. SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared after Booster 3’s debut ignition that, “Depending on progress with Booster 4, we might try a 9 engine firing on Booster 3,” he wrote in response to a Twitter user who congratulated SpaceX on the milestone of igniting Super Heavy. A 9 engine static-fire test will sure showcase the power of the launch system. Musk previously said that the next prototype of the launch vehicle, Booster 4, will be the first to conduct a flight above Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. The booster is currently under construction at the Starbase assembly factory, less than 5-miles down the road from the Starship launch pad. The company targets to conduct the first orbital flight test from Starbase to the coast of Hawaii this year. Teams at Boca Chica are rapidly building a 400-foot-high orbital launch tower to support the ambitious flight attempt.
Depending on progress with Booster 4, we might try a 9 engine firing on Booster 3— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2021
The company plans to set-up a new engine manufacturing facility, “We are breaking ground soon on a second Raptor factory at SpaceX Texas test site,” Musk stated on July 10. The factory will be located in McGregor, TX, where SpaceX currently manufactures and tests the Falcon 9 Merlin engines. “This will focus on volume production of Raptor 2, while California factory will make Raptor Vacuum & new, experimental designs,” he said. “By ‘volume production,’ I mean 2 to 4 engines per day. That’s super high volume for big rocket engines, but low volume by automotive standards,” Musk added. Long-term, he said that SpaceX targets to manufacture “Roughly 800 to 1000 [Raptor engines] per year.” –“That’s about what’s needed over ten years to create the fleet to build a self-sustaining city on Mars. City itself probably takes roughly 20 years, so hopefully it is built by ~2050,” Musk said.
You can watch SpaceX’s Starship development progress Live in the video below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX
Editor's Note 07/19/2021: Fixed Booster 3 Raptor engine count. Three engines are installed.
About the Author
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.