the Starship and its launcher pass a crucial firing test

The Super Heavy launcher and the Starship are getting closer and closer to the long-awaited maiden flight.

On August 9, SpaceX just ticked one of the most important boxes on its roadmap. For the first time in its history, Elon Musk’s firm has carried out Raptor engine firingswhich equips the Super Heavy launcher and the Starship, directly on the launch pad — a decisive step that brings this titanic machine closer to the long-awaited maiden flight.

To test such vehicles, the first step is to perform what is called a ” wet dress rehearsal “. It allows to check the overall integrity of the structure by filling the fuel tanks. In general, space agencies also take the opportunity to organize a small general rehearsal of the start of the launch procedure, stopping just before the firing.

A well-conducted static firing test

Once this test has been validated, engineers can move on to the next step, namely the static firing test. It usually starts with a new wet dress rehearsal, but it also goes further; this involves testing the proper functioning of the distribution and propulsion system.

Concretely, the engineers begin by completely locking the device by anchoring it firmly to the launch pad. They can thus carry out the firing without risking seeing the fruit of their efforts take off, then fall back with a crash.

In this case, SpaceX only testedonly one of 33 Raptor engines on the Super Heavy baptized Booster 7, and two on Starship number 24. This information might therefore seem anecdotal; can we really speak of a real test if all the engines have not been used at the same time?

Luckily, the answer is a big “yes“; it is all the same a crucial stage because it completely conditions the sequence of events. This is all the more important since this engine caused a lot of trouble for Elon Musk and his troops.

Its development has accumulated a considerable delay, so much so that the situation took on rather worrying proportions last December. The Raptor is indeed essential to all of SpaceX’s medium and long-term plans, and this delay therefore put the entire company at risk. Musk even spoke of “disaster” and potential “bankruptcy” (see our article).

Next step: orbit

Since then, SpaceX had been more optimistic; in the absence of new information, observers deduced that the Raptor was finally performing as intended. This firing test confirms this interpretation, and allows SpaceX to turn the page on this uncertain period. The company can now concentrate calmly on the rest of the preparations.

But even if they have finally tamed the Raptor, the engineers will still have their work cut out for them. This success also means that the Super Heavy will soon get down to business; the next step will now be to carry out the first complete firings, that is to say with the 33 Raptors simultaneously. This will open the door to first orbital test of the launcher.

SpaceX hasn’t released a specific date yet, but Musk has said in the past that he plans to send his spacecraft into orbit. before the end of the year. We obviously know that the sulphurous billionaire has a pronounced taste for ambitious, even completely crazy deadlines. But for once, this delay now seems rather reasonable following the success of the firing test in real conditions.

We therefore give you an appointment as soon as the company has confirmed the date of the next deadline.

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