SpaceX launches Starship rocket
SpaceX fires the engines in the towering rocket booster of its Starship prototype on February 9, 2023.
SpaceX on Thursday tested 31 of the 33 engines of its Starship prototype’s towering rocket booster as the company prepares for the rocket’s first orbital launch.
Dubbed “static fire,” the milestone test is the last major hurdle before SpaceX attempts to launch a nearly 400-foot rocket into space.
The company said in a tweet shortly after the test, the engines at the base of the super-heavy booster were running at “full duration”, meaning the expected duration of the test.
This was stated by CEO Elon Musk. in a follow-up tweet, SpaceX shut down one engine before the test and the other engine “stopped”.
“There are still enough engines to go into orbit!” Musk said.
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SpaceX has been steadily preparing for the first flight tests of its Starship rocket. President and COO Gwynn Shotwell stressed on Wednesday that the first launch attempt will be experimental.
An aerial view of the Starship prototype mounted on a Super Heavy booster at Starbase outside Brownsville, Texas.
The Starship is designed to carry cargo and people off-Earth and is critical to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s plan to return astronauts to the Moon. SpaceX has won a nearly $3 billion contract with the space agency in 2021.
While SpaceX had hoped to have the spacecraft’s first orbital launch as early as summer 2021, delays in the process and regulatory approvals have pushed back that schedule. SpaceX needs a license from the Federal Aviation Administration to launch Starship.
Shotwell said on Wednesday: “I think we will be ready to fly as soon as we get the license.”
The company will then analyze the results of the static fire test on Thursday. Shotwell estimated that if the static is successful, SpaceX will be ready to launch Starship’s first orbital flight “within the next month or so.”