SpaceX just launched its most ambitious and powerful experiment to date with the Mars Starship rocket.
SpaceX fired 14 Raptor cannons on Booster 7, the prototype of the first stage of the Starship Super Heavy rocket, during a “static fire” today (Nov. 14) at Starbase, the company’s South Texas facility.
“Full test duration of 14 engines” SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted (Opens in a new tab) shortly after the static fire, which occurred at 1:51 pm EST (1851 GMT) and lasted about 10 seconds. The experiment was captured on video by observers NASAspaceFlight (Opens in a new tab) and the rocket town of Boca Chica (Opens in a new tab).
Related: SpaceX fires up Starship Super Heavy on a long engine test run
Static fires are common pre-clearance tests in which the rocket guns are briefly fired while the vehicle is anchored to the ground.
SpaceX, however, is gearing up for a flight with Starship — the program’s first orbital test mission, which appears to involve Booster 7 and an upper stage prototype known as Ship 24. That flight could send the term before the end of the year, Musk said.
Today’s static fire could be a big step toward orbital liftoff: it doubled the previous highest number of Raptor engines that SpaceX fired through the Starship test engine. But there’s still much work to do to demonstrate Booster 7’s flight readiness; The vehicle boasts a whopping 33.
The ship sports 24 destroyers and six guns. SpaceX fired everything at the same time on Sept. 8.
SpaceX is developing Starship to take people and cargo to the moon and Mars and various other space missions.
Starship prototypes have flown several test flights to date, but none of them have achieved altitudes higher than about 6 miles (10 kilometers) in the sky. None of them, nor the internet.
SpaceX is already connected to several Starship customers, including NASA, which picked up the vehicle as the first crewed lander for its lunar exploration program. If all goes according to plan, astronauts will land on the moon’s surface in 2025 or 2026 and reach the Starship on the Artemis 3 mission.
Private customers are also signed up to ride the Starship on missions around the moon (not up to its surface). Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa booked the entire flight, for example, and space tourism pioneer Dennis Tito and his wife Akiko bought two seats on another mission.
Mike Wall is the author of “There you go (Opens in a new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018, illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (Opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (Opens in a new tab) or * Facebook (Opens in a new tab).
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