SpaceX test-fires booster for second Starship launch

WASHINGTON — SpaceX says it efficiently test-fired the booster for its subsequent Starship launch, though that liftoff should be weeks away.

SpaceX fired the Raptor engines within the Super Heavy booster designated Booster 9 in a static-fire check at its Starbase check web site in Boca Chica, Texas, at roughly 1:35 p.m. Eastern Aug. 25. SpaceX mentioned it performed a “full duration” firing, which appeared to final about 5 to 6 seconds.

SpaceX later acknowledged that all 33 engines successfully ignited, though two shut down prematurely. “Congratulations to the SpaceX team on this exciting milestone!”

The firm didn’t state if that efficiency was adequate for it to proceed with a launch try, but it surely was higher than an earlier check of the identical booster Aug. 6. That check ended early, after the engines fired for lower than three seconds, with 4 of the Raptors shutting down prematurely.

If SpaceX is glad with the result of the check, it’s possible one of many closing technical milestones earlier than it’s prepared for a second built-in Starship/Super Heavy launch. The first, April 20, failed 4 minutes after liftoff when a number of Raptor engines within the Super Heavy booster shut down and car later misplaced management and tumbled.

SpaceX, nonetheless, will nonetheless must obtain Federal Aviation Administration approval for a launch, which incorporates modifications to its unique Starship/Super Heavy launch license. SpaceX delivered a report into the April 20 failure to the FAA earlier within the month, however the company should nonetheless approve it and assess whether or not SpaceX has made the required adjustments earlier than approving a revised license. The FAA has not given a timeline for that course of, however business observers imagine that would take a number of weeks.

The firm has already made a number of adjustments to the launch car and the pad based mostly on the expertise from the April launch. The pad now has a water deluge system designed to stop the injury the Raptor plume did to the pad, within the course of sending sand and particles so far as 10 kilometers from the launch web site. That deluge system was used within the two current static-fire exams, though its effectiveness received’t be absolutely demonstrated till a launch as a result of the engines weren’t fired at full thrust within the current exams.

The booster now has an interstage ring on high with vents. That is designed to accommodate a “hot-staging” method that SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk revealed in June, the place the engines of the Starship higher stage are ignited whereas nonetheless hooked up to the Super Heavy booster. Doing so, he mentioned, can enhance the car’s efficiency by as a lot as 10%.

Musk mentioned in June that the corporate had made “well over a thousand” different adjustments to the car that gave him elevated confidence that the following launch might be profitable. “I think the probability this next flight working, getting to orbit, is much higher than the last one. Maybe it’s like 60%,” he mentioned.

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