SpaceX completed the largest static fire test of a launch vehicle in history on a launch pad in Texas. (February 9, 2023)
SpaceX completed a full-scale static fire test on the launch pad on Thursday (February 9), taking another giant step toward sending its massive Starship into orbit.
Thirty-one of the 33 first-stage booster engines ignited simultaneously for about 10 seconds in South Texas. The launch team shut down one engine before sending the ignition command, and the other stopped on its own — “but still has enough power to make it to orbit!” tweeted SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk.
Musk estimates that if the test analysis and other preparations go well, the first orbital test flight of the starship may take place as early as March this year.
During the test, the booster was secured to the launch pad as planned, and there was no sign of significant damage to the launch tower.
NASA is counting on Starship to deliver astronauts to the lunar surface within a few years and link up with the Orion capsule in lunar orbit. After that, Musk also wanted to use a huge starship to send people to Mars.
Thursday’s test used only the 230-foot (69-meter) first-stage Super Heavy booster. The second-stage booster, which will land on the moon and Mars in the future, is in the hangar getting ready for flight.
At 394 feet (120 meters) tall, Starship is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built. It can generate 17 million pounds of liftoff thrust, nearly twice as much as NASA’s lunar landing rocket that sent an empty capsule to the moon and back to Earth late last year.
SpaceX ignited as many as 14 Starship engines last fall and completed a refueling test on the launch pad last month.
When the starship’s engines started, flocks of birds scattered and spewed thick black smoke at the starship launch site known as Starbase. The launch site is located in the southernmost tip of Texas, near the village of Boca Chica, close to the Mexican border.