SpaceX’s third high-altitude spacecraft prototype appears to have successfully fired its trio of Raptor engines, increasing the odds of another launch and landing attempt later this week.
Following a previous aborted attempt before propellant loading began on February 22, SpaceX managed to change the serial number of Starship 10 (SN10) and its launch facilities for a second attempt ~ 24 hours later. Unlike Starship SN9, which went through four torturous weeks of clean, aborted and off-target static fire test attempts before finally being cleared for flight; Starship SN10 seemingly dodged a similar fate and fired its Raptor engines with no obvious issues after only two days of actual attempts.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether the test was truly successful. Long-distance observations, from the outside to the inside, leave little or no room for nuanced interpretation, and the difference between a good and a bad test may be too subtle to detect with the naked eye.
Yesterday’s aborted attempt never got past the tank farm activation, but it could have been caused by the ground support team (GSE), Starship, or something else entirely. Regardless, almost exactly 24 hours later, Starship SN10 fired up all three of its Raptor engines after a smooth and error-free test flow. That single static fire simultaneously served as the massive steel rocket’s first wet general test (WDR) with live (and flammable) liquid methane and oxygen propellant, making such a clean flow that much more impressive and encouraging.
However, one of the last remaining Boca Chica Village residents reported that they had received a standard security ‘alert’ distributed by SpaceX around 40 minutes after the SN10 static fire. Those alerts serve as reminders for residents to stay away from their home windows during Starship’s static fire tests to mitigate the risk of injury in the event that a given test goes wrong and a vehicle explodes.
That could means that SpaceX quickly determined that Tuesday’s static fire was unsatisfactory, although it could easily be SpaceX hedging its bets in case it needs to redo SN10’s static fire on Wednesday, February 24. If Tuesday’s test went well, SpaceX could flip the SN10 over for a launch attempt as early as Thursday, moving to Friday if a hypothetical reduction in static fire from Wednesday works well. Stay tuned for updates (and hopefully confirmation from CEO Elon Musk).