SpaceX’s latest prototype spacecraft has just come to life.
The Starship SN10 (“Series No. 10”) vehicle conducted its first “static fire” test on Tuesday (February 23), firing all three Raptor engines for a few seconds at 6:03 pm EST (2303 GMT) at SpaceX’s . South Texas site near the Boca Chica Village settlement on the Gulf Coast.
Static fires, in which engines are briefly fired while a rocket remains anchored to the ground, is a common preflight check for SpaceX. If all went well with today’s test, SN10 is still on track to launch soon, maybe as early as Thursday (Feb. 25) – On a 6-mile (10-kilometer) demonstration flight into the skies over southern Texas.
Starship and Super Heavy: SpaceX’s Mars Colonizing Vehicles in Pictures
Static fire from the SN10 spaceship! Hopefully it was a great test. 🔥🚀🔥 @ NASASpaceflight pic.twitter.com/J6cVUypRgYFebruary 23, 2021
It will be the third high altitude test for a Starship vehicle, after similar rides in December 2020 and February 2 of this year by the two immediate predecessors to the SN10, SN8 and SN9. Both flights went well until the end; SN8 and SN9 crashed hard into their landing pads, exploding in dramatic fireballs.
Such flights are a crucial part of the development path for Starship, which SpaceX sees as the vehicle that will make colonization of Mars economically viable. The Starship system will consist of two fully reusable parts: a 165-foot-tall (50-meter) spacecraft called the Starship and a massive rocket known as the Super Heavy.
The final Starship will have six Raptors, and the Super Heavy will have about 30 of the engines, said SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk. The spaceship will be powerful enough to launch from the moon and Mars, but the spaceship will need Super Heavy to get off Earth.
We are likely to see many more Starship test flights in the coming weeks and months, no matter what the SN10 launch looks like. Musk recently said that SpaceX is aiming to launch a prototype into Earth orbit this year, and anticipates that Starship will regularly transport people by 2023.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.