On February 9, SpaceX will try to perform a static-fire test of all 33 engines on its Starship launcher, which might pave the way for the firm to attempt an orbital launch the following month.
Gwynne Shotwell, president, and chief operating officer of SpaceX, announced the upcoming test at the Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference on February 8. This is the penultimate significant technical milestone before the vehicle’s maiden orbital launch attempt.
Shotwell said at the FAA’s annual Commercial Space Transportation conference in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, “Tomorrow is a big day for SpaceX.”
The Starship is a roughly 120-meter-tall rocket transporting freight and passengers beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, NASA’s goal to send humans back to the moon relies heavily on SpaceX’s success, which is why the government awarded the company a roughly $3 billion contract in 2021.
Company prototypes Starship 24, and Super Heavy booster seven completed a “wet dress rehearsal” last month.
Super Heavy booster’s 33 Raptor engines launched in a static-fire test and will be used for the first time. Up to 14 engines in a booster have been started at once, causing minor pad damage.
After her talk, Shotwell told the media that the business’s modifications would minimize pad damage during the impending more powerful test. She said that she did not anticipate any problems on the pad like those that arose during the 14-engine static fire, and their efforts on the landing pad have paid off. She gave no other details on the alterations.
To conduct an orbital flight test, SpaceX must first get a launch license from the FAA, which involves meeting the requirements of an environmental evaluation released in June about Starship flights from SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas, test facility.
Regarding the environmental review, she declared that they have been working on all the mitigations, which included coordinating with local, state, and federal organizations. They will likely be ready to take to the skies when they get their license.
Starship is vital to SpaceX’s long-term objectives, including the deployment of a second generation of its Starlink constellation and the landing of NASA astronauts on the moon as part of the agency’s Artemis lunar exploration mission. Shotwell underlined in her speech how they built it for a rapid pace of manufacture and flying.
Shotwell indicated it would take at least a hundred test flights for Starship to be ready to carry humans into space. It isn’t easy since the firm is preparing a lunar lander version of Starship for NASA’s Artemis 3 mission, which is set to launch as early as 2025.
Later, while speaking with reporters, she referred to reaching 100 flights as a “wonderful objective” but implied that it was unnecessary. Moreover, she prefers to complete hundreds of them, which is an excellent target.
“It’s quite possible that we could do that,” she remarked.
First, she stressed the need for SpaceX to launch Starship into orbit as soon as possible. There will be many trial flights because “we will go for a test flight and learn from the test flight,” she said. The main objective is to keep the launch pad from being destroyed — the definition of success.