On Thursday, February 9th, 2023 at 03:14 p.m. CST (21:14 UTC) in Brownsville, Texas, a full static fire test was successfully carried out with 31 out of 33 Raptor engines of Super Heavy Prototype Booster 7.
Over the past months, other static fire tests have been performed, but with only a few engines at a time. This time 31 Raptor V2 engines were successfully ignited while 2 had problems. Thus another milestone was achieved by SpaceX.
The first orbital flight of Starship, tentatively scheduled for March, is now closer thanks to this important test.
Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX, announced on Wednesday, February 8, that the company was planning a significant milestone for their Starship project this week. They were targeting Thursday, Feb. 9, to conduct the static fire test involving simultaneously all 31 engines at the bottom of the Super Heavy rocket booster
In November, they had already performed a test firing of 14 engines, as they strived toward launching a starship prototype into orbit the next month.
Just hours later Shotwell’s announcement, on Wednesday afternoon, road closures notices from Cameron County (where SpaceX’s Starbase is located) were published, all being from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST. and then has been delivered the overpressure notice to citizens of the static fire for the following day.
On Thursday morning, the road closure began at 8:00 a.m. local sharp, and all the various pre-test sequences began, such as Tank farm activity, propellant loading in Booster 7, and engine chill. The siren then sounded 10 minutes earlier to warn of the impending static fire.
The test was performed at 03:14 p.m. CST (21:14 UTC), and all engines ignited groups at a time up to a total of 31, and 2 had problems. When the engines were switched off, the de-tank of Booster 7 began, the emptying of the propellants indicated that testing was concluded.
At the end of the tests, drones were used to verify the area and check that everything was under control, and then the various SpaceX teams took action. This test was essential to verify the correct operation of all sequences, the correct functioning of all engines, and the strength of the various support structures.
In the near future, SpaceX will release confirmation of what happened and if they found any problems. They will then go on to analyze all the data collected from the test and identify any damage or insufficient performances. Should there be any damaged engines or structures, they will go on to repair them and make all the necessary considerations to solve the problems.
Results and upcoming tests
We are getting closer and closer to the first orbital flight of Starship, but more tests will have to be performed to make it happen. We will also see the finalization of support systems such as the water deluge, covers, and reinforcements of the orbital pad and the wall protecting the tank farm.
Remember that the key part is not to damage the launch pad, as indeed Gwynne Shotwell reiterated: “Keep in mind, this first one is really a test flight and the real goal is to not blow up the launch pad, that is success”.
It is the orbital pad that is the most complex part, while Booster 7 may be expendable because they are mass-produced: Booster 9 is already basically ready, the orbital pad, on the other hand, would take several months to fix or recreate.
As Shotwell mentioned, sticking to these roadmaps, if there are no problems and testing proceeds smoothly, they are aiming for a first orbital flight next month, also blinding that to get to the first human missions, particularly with the Artemis mission, they will have to make “hundreds” of flights to accumulate experience and gain confidence in the system.
STATIC FIRE! Booster 7 fires up in a milestone test. We’ll need SpaceX/Elon to confirm how many engines! But that looked super controlled, and everything appears intact (a big win!)https://t.co/kMGfaJbudD pic.twitter.com/kFb0m5DaJG— Chris Bergin – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) February 9, 2023