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SpaceX Starship Test Firing Imminent

Thirty-Three Burning

SpaceX’s Starship—the vehicle by which Elon Musk, his legions of boffins, NASA, and the whole of mankind aims to return humans to the moon and eventually pack them off to Mars—is drawing ever nearer its inaugural launch. In point of fact, the mammoth spacecraft and the Super Heavy booster by which it is to be borne heavenward may well make their first orbital flight within weeks.

Reports from SpaceX’s Starbase rocket development facility in Boca Chica, Texas indicate Booster 7, an early prototype of the aforementioned Super Heavy booster, may be test-fired in short order and dramatic fashion.

On Monday, 23 January 2023, SpaceX engineers and technicians successfully conducted the mammoth vehicle’s first full wet dress rehearsal—an herculean undertaking in which more than ten-million-pounds of liquid oxygen and methane fuel were loaded into Starship and the Super Heavy booster, then pressurized to operational values. For purpose of perfecting complex pre-launch protocols, SpaceX personnel simulated countdown procedures up to the moment of liftoff.

Data gleaned during the wet dress rehearsal is currently being evaluated by SpaceX engineers. The absence of irregularity from subject test would bode well for a near-future Starship static-firing and subsequent test launch.

A static-firing would see the Super Heavy booster secured to a test stand and its Raptor engines—all 33 of them—briefly lit. To date, SpaceX has conducted 1, 3, 7, 11, and 14-engine static-firings of Booster 7. The anticipated 2023 static-firing will mark the first instance in which a fully-loaded Super Heavy booster stage is subjected to the cumulative thrust of its full complement of Raptor engines

Throughout 2020 and 2021, Starship upper-stage prototypes SN8 through SN15 alternately undertook test-flights and served as proof-of-concept demonstrators. On 05 May 2021, SN15 launched, ascended to an altitude of approximately ten-kilometers, then landed softly after a six-minute flight.

Starship’s first orbital flight is slated to be a straightforward affair. After propelling the Starship second-stage to a predetermined altitude, the Super Heavy booster first stage will separate and either splash-down in the Gulf of Mexico, land on a modified oceanic oil-rig, or return to its Boca Chica launch pad and land vertically thereupon. Starship, meanwhile, will continue to low Earth orbit, dally a bit in space, then return to Earth, splashing down off the coast of Hawaii.

SpaceX intends to conduct numerous Starship ground and flight tests throughout 2023. Once thoroughly vetted, the vehicle will be among the key assets of NASA’s Artemis program—eventually carrying cargo and astronauts to Earth’s moon later this decade.



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