In a significant step towards achieving its ambitious spaceflight goals, SpaceX conducted a static test of its Starship Super Heavy Booster 9 on August 6 at the Starbase site in Boca Chica Beach, Texas. The test, aimed at evaluating the performance of the liquid methane-fueled Raptor rocket engines, experienced a minor setback when four out of the 33 Raptor engines shut down prematurely. Despite this glitch, the test marked a successful milestone for SpaceX.
The Booster 9 prototype, representing the first stage of the Starship system, was securely anchored to the orbital launch mount during the test. The engines roared to life, with the fiery ignition lasting around 2.74 seconds, shorter than the anticipated "just under five seconds," said SpaceX representatives, who provided real-time commentary during a livestream of the testing operation.
Though four engines shut down prematurely, SpaceX broadcast commentator John Insprucker said they consider this a productive test overall, with 29 engines performing admirably. He also conveyed congratulations to the Starship team for their dedication and effort in advancing the project. The test not only validated critical engine performance but also demonstrated the structural integrity of Booster 9 and the launch mount. The company shared a video clip of the static-fire test, linked below. One noteworthy aspect of the test was the use of a new steel water deluge system designed to mitigate potential damage caused by the powerful engines. This system was implemented following the previous fully-integrated test flight of the Starship vehicle on April 20, which resulted in significant damage underneath the launch mount and an explosion over the Gulf of Mexico. The newly installed water-cooled metal plate beneath the launch pad pedestal successfully safeguarded the infrastructure during the recent test.
Drone view of Booster 9 static fire test pic.twitter.com/ARv6H6njgu— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 6, 2023
Looking ahead, SpaceX has plans for an upcoming flight test involving both Booster 9 and an upper-stage prototype called Starship SN25 (Ship 25). SpaceX founder Chief Engineer Elon Musk has indicated that this flight will aim to achieve similar objectives as the initial test flight but predicts that there is now a 50% chance of reaching orbital velocity during the upcoming flight attempt to space. The increased confidence stems from a “tremendous number” of overhauls made to the spacecraft, with “well over a thousand changes” implemented since the last flight test, he said in June.
Despite the technical progress, SpaceX is facing challenges beyond the engineering realm. A coalition of environmental and Indigenous groups is pursuing legal action against the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which granted launch licenses for Starship missions from the Starbase site. The lawsuit alleges inadequate assessment of potential environmental impacts in the South Texas region, urging a more comprehensive review before future Starship launches can proceed.
With each step forward in its Starship development program, SpaceX continues to make strides towards realizing its vision of space exploration and commercialization. The recent static fire test, despite its hiccups, serves as a testament to the company's determination and resilience in the face of technical and regulatory challenges.
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Watch Super Heavy Booster 9 static fire https://t.co/Q1ngH8oKX5— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 6, 2023
Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
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.