Just before 8 p.m. On Wednesday, SpaceX ground crews in Boca Chica conducted the first test firing of the Raptor rocket engine of the Starship Hopper.
Approximately half an hour later, the company's CEO and chief designer, Elon Musk, published a dramatic video of the successful trial, which briefly but dramatically lit the launch site with belching fire. He tweeted: "Starhopper completed the jump tied, all systems are green."
Ice had delayed the first start-up of the engine and the inaugural "jump" of the prototype at the SpaceX launch / test site on Boca Chica beach, according to a Musk tweet from April 2.
Specifically, he cited the "challenges with icing in the cryogenic thrusters that prevail" in a tweet on April 2 that explains why the plump prototype had not turned on its engine and had left the ground. Musk did not elaborate, but said he hoped the problem would be resolved soon. That resolution came last night.
Meanwhile, Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. characterized the "growth problems" for residents by road and beach closures during the tests, and said he is aware that SpaceX can pause the tests in the site up to 60 days after the current round. to complete. The company did not confirm a specific schedule once the current test objectives were completed.
The Starship Hopper was transported from the SpaceX yard approximately 1.5 miles east to the launch site on March 8, in preparation to verify new ground systems and conduct a "static fire short test" of its single Raptor engine powered by oxygen and liquid methane.
All eyes have been on SpaceX Boca Chica since the end of December, when Musk first published photos of a rudimentary stainless-steel rocket being built there, and especially since Cameron County began closing down. 4 and Boca Chica Beach for several hours a day in the last three weeks to perform tests.
The bright upper part of the hopper, which gave the boat a clbadic, vintage / futuristic look, was damaged by strong winds in January and was not replaced after being considered non-essential.
Until Wednesday, the tests had not advanced beyond feeding the hopper, discharging liquid oxygen and combustion of methane when the ground crew tried to solve the problem. The company said earlier this month that the initial jumps would be tied and would not be seen off-site.
The jumps of the current prototype will be suborbital, although an orbital version is being built in Boca Chica. The latest Starship spacecraft and the Super Heavy rocket engine, once built, will dwarf the test vehicle that is now in Boca Chica. SpaceX wants the Starship / Super Heavy to take humans to Mars in the not too distant future.
The original SpaceX plans required up to 12 commercial launches per year from Boca Chica, accompanied by the closure of S.H. 4 and small mouth. However, the new focus on testing and prototyping has involved several consecutive days of testing and closures more frequently than initially anticipated.
Treviño said it is still within the terms that allow Cameron County, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas General Land Office to authorize closures of S.H. 4 and Boca Chica Beach during SpaceX operations to protect public health and safety.
"It is still within the parameters," he said. "We are in contact with GLO and SpaceX to see if something needs to be updated."
Treviño said he regrets that the situation is causing inconvenience to some residents, but he begs the public for patience and understanding, saying that ultimately there is a greater benefit for Brownsville, the Rio Grande Valley and southern Texas.
"They are now building, badembling and testing," he said. "His mission has expanded and I think that's great … We're just trying to get through this testing stage."
Given the complexity and cutting-edge nature of what SpaceX is doing in Boca Chica, it should not be a surprise if the tests take longer than anticipated, Treviño said, adding that for the sake of safety, such things do not They can be hurried.
"They are testing all kinds of parts," he said. "This is rocket science."