SpaceX has just completed its most ambitious and powerful test to date with its Starship Mars rocket.
SpaceX fired 14 Raptor engines on Booster 7, the prototype of Starship’s super-heavy first-stage rocket, during a “static fire” test today (November 14) at Starbase, the company’s South Texas facility.
“Total test duration 14 engines,” SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted. (will open in a new tab) shortly after a static fire that occurred at 13:51 EST (1851 GMT) and lasted about 10 seconds. The test was captured on video by observers such as NASASpaceFlight. (will open in a new tab) and Boca Chica Rocket Ranch (will open in a new tab).
Related: SpaceX launches Starship Super Heavy booster again in long-term engine test
(Image credit: Anthony Gomez/Rocket Ranch, Texas)
Static fires are common pre-flight tests in which the rocket’s engines are briefly ignited while the vehicle remains anchored to the ground.
And SpaceX is getting ready to fly with Starship, the program’s first orbital test mission, which will apparently use Booster 7 and a prototype upper stage known as Ship 24. That landmark flight could begin before the end of the year, Musk said. .
Today’s static fire could be a big step towards an orbital launch: it doubled the previous maximum number of Raptor engines that SpaceX fired during its Starship engine test. But there is still a lot of work to be done to demonstrate the readiness of launch vehicle 7 to fly; the car boasts a whopping 33 raptors.
Ship 24 is powered by six Raptor engines. SpaceX ignited them all at the same time during a static fire on September 8th.
SpaceX is developing Starship to carry people and cargo to the Moon and Mars, as well as many other space missions.
To date, Starship prototypes have made several test flights, but none of them have risen above 10 kilometers in the sky. And none of them involved a super-heavy machine.
SpaceX has already signed a number of customers for Starship, including NASA, which has chosen the ship as the first crewed lander for its Artemis lunar exploration program. If all goes according to plan, astronauts will land on the lunar surface in 2025 or 2026 aboard the Starship as part of the Artemis 3 mission.
Private clients have also signed up to participate in Starship flights around the moon (rather than on its surface). For example, billionaire Yusaku Maezawa booked an entire flight, while space tourism pioneer Dennis Tito and his wife Akiko bought two seats for another mission.
Mike Wall is the author of Out There (will open in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrations by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or on facebook (will open in a new tab).