Testing of the spacecraft’s engines may have set a record for the greatest thrust ever produced by a single space rocket.
SpaceX has conducted a successful test launch of the engines of the most powerful rocket ever built, eventually sending astronauts to the Moon and Mars.
Thursday’s test, dubbed static fire, of the 33 Raptor engines on SpaceX’s spacecraft’s first-stage booster took place at the private space company’s base in Texas and appeared to set a new record for the largest thrust ever was generated by a single space rocket.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said one engine was shut off just before the test began and one stopped itself.
“So a total of 31 engines fired,” Musk said in a tweet. “But still enough thrusters to reach orbit!”
SpaceX said the test lasted its “full duration.”
Huge orange flames erupted from the base of the missile and plumes of smoke rose into the air during the test shot, which lasted several seconds.
NASA expects Starship to take astronauts to the lunar surface in a few years and connect with its Orion capsule in lunar orbit. Later, Musk wants to send people to Mars with the mammoth spaceships.
The 69-meter-long Super Heavy Booster was anchored to the ground to prevent liftoff during Thursday’s test firing.
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, said Wednesday at a conference in Washington, DC that the first orbital launch could happen within the next month or so if the test is successful. This launch, a test mission, would involve takeoff from Texas and landing off the coast of Hawaii.
“It’s really the last ground test we can do before we light them up and go,” Shotwell said.
NASA has chosen the Starship capsule to carry its astronauts to the moon as part of the Artemis 3 mission, which is scheduled for no earlier than 2025.
When linked to his upper-tier starship, the Starship, the entire vehicle will be taller than the Statue of Liberty at 120 meters (394 feet) tall and will be at the heart of Musk’s ambitions to eventually colonize Mars. But it is initially planned to play a leading role in NASA’s renewed human exploration of the moon.
Space enthusiasts praised the engine test, calling it “a big win” for SpaceX.
STATIC FIRE! Booster 7 starts in a milestone test. We need SpaceX/Elon to confirm how many thrusters! But this looked super checked and everything seems intact (a big win!) https://t.co/kMGfaJbudD pic.twitter.com/kFb0m5DaJG
SpaceX envisions eventually launching a spacecraft into orbit and then refueling it with another spacecraft so it can continue its journey to Mars or beyond.
Other superheavy rockets under development include Blue Origin’s New Glenn, China’s Long March 9, and Russia’s Yenisei.
Blue Origin, the private space company founded by US tech billionaire Jeff Bezos, received its first interplanetary NASA contract Thursday to launch a mission to study the magnetic field around Mars next year, NASA said.
According to the agency, Blue Origin’s recently developed New Glenn heavy lift rocket is scheduled to lift off in late 2024 with NASA’s two-spacecraft ESCAPADE mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
New Glenn, with a reusable first stage rated for at least 25 missions, is named for pioneering NASA astronaut John Glenn, who became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962.
Blue Origin has flown previous NASA missions on its smaller, suborbital New Shepard rocket, capable of carrying research payloads to the edge of space and back on short trips in microgravity.