SpaceX’s Starship Prototype Ignites Engines Ahead of Next Test Flight

SpaceX’s Starship Prototype Ignites Engines Ahead of Next Test Flight

SpaceX’s launch facility in South Texas saw some fiery action last night as the upper stage of the company’s upcoming Starship prototype let out its first engine roar during a static fire test.

Starship 25 fired its six Raptor engines for a few seconds on Monday at 8:27 p.m. ET at the company’s Starbase site in Boca Chica, Texas, SpaceX revealed on Twitter. Starship is a two-stage heavy-lift launch vehicle, this being a test of the upper stage. SpaceX will eventually perform a similar test of the booster, which is equipped with 33 methane-fuelled Raptor engines.

The static fire test was done in preparation for Starship’s second flight, the date of which is yet to be announced. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk did recently reveal, however, that Starship needs “well over a thousand” tweaks before it can fly again. Musk is now claiming that Starship will launch in about six weeks, which seems to be his rolling, default prediction these days.

SpaceX launched its megarocket for the first time on April 20 for a test flight, which ended with Starship being forced to self-destruct about four minutes after liftoff. A few of the rocket’s engines failed and Starship began tumbling off-course before exploding in the skies. It also took Starship 40 seconds to respond to the self-destruct command.

Since then, SpaceX has been gearing up to see its megarocket fly once again for a second test flight. As Musk recently revealed, however, the company is implementing a few changes ahead of Starship’s next launch, including switching to a hot-staging approach. Through this new adjustment, engines in the rocket’s upper stage will ignite prior to separating from the booster.

The company has also been implementing some upgrades to Starship’s launchpad, including installing a water deluge system in an effort to prevent damage to the launch site.

The Ship 25 prototype will be mounted atop Booster 9 for the upcoming test flight. The booster itself has had some upgrades, namely switching from hydraulic thrust vector controls to electric thrust vector controls, which is aimed at preventing Starship’s tumbling anomaly experienced during its first liftoff.

Even as SpaceX continues to move ahead with upgrades to the launchpad and the rocket itself, the company still needs the go-ahead from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before it can launch Starship for a second test flight. The administration grounded Starship pending an ongoing investigation into its first test flight.

It’s not clear whether Starship will be fit to fly in six weeks, but there is a lot riding on the rocket’s ability to reach orbit in the near future.

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