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SpaceX hot fire tests Starship three times in four hours

The image of the spacecraft on the launch pad
Expand / The sun shines around the Starship SN8’s lower fin on December 9, 2020.

Trevor Mahlmann

On Wednesday in South Texas, SpaceX shot down its newest spacecraft prototype, not once or twice. But engineers and technicians refueled and tested three SN9 prototypes and Raptor rocket engines in less than four hours.

After the first of three tests, the SpaceX founder and chief engineer said on Twitter, “Today at SpaceX it was about Starship̵

7;s engine start training, the ship was pinned down by large pegs while the engine was fired.” The third test, Musk confirmed that all three tests were completed without major problems.

Three tests like this in a quick succession were a remarkable achievement and pointed to the maturity of spacecraft hardware, ground systems, and the steps for SpaceX’s Starship launch program, Musk said the goal was to go. To the point that can “jump into” to Mars. Such capabilities can persist for many years in the future, if realized. But it looks like the company has made progress toward a strong launch system.

Assuming that data from Wednesday’s engine testing is needed, the next step for the SN9 is likely to be. The car is already on the launch pad, and Musk and his engineers will now do a “readiness” check in advance of that. What is expected to be another test flight at around 12.5km, similar to a flight operated by the SN8 in December. The goal was to successfully land after SN8 met its hot end at the landing spot after a near-perfect flight.

SpaceX received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to launch its SN9 vehicles Thursday, Friday or Saturday from a facility near Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. There is a possibility that they will be able to replace the SN9 for flight as soon as Thursday. There were, however, concerns about the upper winds, which seemed unfriendly until at least Saturday.

Sources suggest that SpaceX is keen to fly the SN9 as it has already assembled its next-generation Starship prototype, the SN10, at a nearby High Bay plant.The company is rushing to fly the vehicle, possibly at the end of the month. January, as there are many other prototypes in various states of construction.

The close-range goal is to demonstrate Starship’s orbital flight capabilities.To do this, the company needs to build and test the Super Heavy rocket first, which will serve as Starship’s first line of defense. The spacecraft plunges into orbit and then checks whether it can safely return to Earth, using a heat shield that faces the atmosphere and a complex maneuver to slow down and eventually Then take control Landing

In an interview published earlier this month, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell told Ars she thought it was more likely that this orbital flight test would take place in 2021.

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