SpaceX completed three triple-Raptor Starship static fire tests on January 13 demonstrating maturing hardware and operational procedures.
In one of the busiest days at the SpaceX Boca Chica development facility to date, teams completed three separate static fire tests of the Starship SN9 prototype. The first test saw all three of the vehicle’s next-generation Raptor engines ignited for a short burn at 18:28 UTC. The second and third static fire tests occurred at 20:22 UTC and 21:36 UTC.
Yesterday’s trio of static fire tests were in addition to an initial test completed on January 6. With a total of four static fire tests under its belt, the SN9 prototype appears primed for its maiden high-altitude hop.
According to a Cameron Country road closure notice, SpaceX has an option to attempt the SN9 prototype’s maiden launch on January 14. If the company elects not to utilise today’s launch window, road closure notices indicate additional opportunities on January 18, 19, and 20.
With the completion of three static fire tests in a single day, SpaceX has demonstrated that its Starship architecture and launch procedures have significantly matured over the last two years of testing. In recognition of this progress, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted “Good progress towards our “Hop in & go to Mars!” goal.”
The SN9 high-altitude hop will be the second following the SN8 launch in December 2020. The vehicle climbed to an altitude of over 12 kilometers before returning to Earth, completing a “belly flop” manoeuvre to bleed off speed, and reigniting its three Raptor engines to slow its descent for a soft touch down. However, a header tank pressure issue caused SN8 to slam into the ground exploding on impact.
Starship is half of a next-generation reusable launch system that SpaceX designed to enable humanity to build a colony on the surface of Mars. The second part of the vehicle, the Super Heavy booster, will carry Starship into orbit before returning to Earth touching down vertically much like the launch provider’s Falcon 9 booster. The first Super Heavy booster prototype is currently under construction at the Boca Chica facility.