SpaceX revs up Starship’s engines and burns down the Starbase

Despite a major prairie fire linked to a lack of blast protection, this major success brings the starship closer to its highly anticipated maiden flight.

Just under a year ago, SpaceX had a particularly difficult period because of setbacks with the Raptor V2, its next-generation rocket engine. The latter gave engineers a lot of headaches, to the point of putting the company back on the wall (see our article). But these galleys look well and truly finished; Tonight, SpaceX conducted the first test of simultaneous firing of all six Raptor V2 engines on its 24th starship prototype.

This is not the first time that the machine has been subjected to this test called “static fire”, which consists of anchoring the machine to the ground to test its engines at full speed. But the last time SpacX performed such a test, Starship was still equipped with the first version of Raptor; this is the first time six copies of the Raptor V2 have been pushed to the limit simultaneously on the same machine.

And the least we can say is that they work wonderfully. Together they produced a cumulative impulse of approx. 1380 tons – an all-time record at Starbase, SpaceX’s launch pad in Boca Chica. For comparison, it is nearly double the thrust developed by the first stage of the Falcon 9 launch vehicleSpaceX’s current flagship!

The test also lasted 8 seconds, making it one of the longest static shots ever performed by a starship.

A big prairie fire all around

The test images are, however, as impressive as you’d expect. The shot produced a deafening noise and a huge cloud of flame and smoke. And if the scene was so photogenic, it’s because, as usual, SpaceX didn’t it is not considered necessary to use a fire station equipped with chimneys – those trenches that are used to channel the glowing gas jets from the engines.

The company does not have also did not use delugethose huge jets of water that often line the launch pad to reduce launch noise and prevent the structural damage associated with these extreme acoustic waves.

Bad news for the poor launch pad concrete. The latter is regularly shaken by SpaceX tests because of the Dantesque forces and temperatures they produce. And this also has direct consequences on the surrounding meadows.

For the reasons cited above, starship launches regularly cause small fires that are quickly brought under control. But this time, the six Raptors V2 unleashed a big prairie fire on the Starbase website. Some witnesses managed to capture some images.

the FAA watches

It is difficult to perceive the extent of the phenomenon in these videos; but according to Teslarati, on-site observers described it as a fire “graduate”. Obviously, it had nothing to do with the massive fires that have hit the drylands of the United States or Australia in recent years. But it would have spread at an unusual speed for a SpaceX landfill that would have burned for several hours.

However, it appears that the meadows in question are ecological niches protected by local legislation. This is part of why SpaceX took so long to get approval from the FAA, the federal agency that performed its environmental audit of Starbase.

The agency will likely consider this when granting SpaceX the final launch license, as such fires are anything but desirable in a protected area; in retrospect, it seems quite surprising that it has not already required the installation of a deluge or chimney system. But in practice, there is almost no chance the FAA will land the craft for this reason.


Starship’s big debut isn’t far away

Anyway, the incident was eventually brought under control. Engineers could, therefore, rejoice as they should in this great success; it brings the starship one step closer to its first trip into orbit.

This will be an absolutely decisive step that will speed up SpaceX. Elon Musk has been teasing the arrival of this state-of-the-art spacecraft for years. In particular, he will lead the last leg of the Artemis program. In the long term, he will also play a crucial role in the conquest of Mars, which the billionaire has dreamed of for so long.

So we’ll have to watch SpaceX’s announcements in the coming weeks. The baptism of orbit is fast approaching and promises to open a new chapter in aerospace history. And in the meantime, we can already begin to imagine what a similar test will look like with the Super Heavy launcher that will propel the ship using its… 33 Raptors V2. The poor launch pad definitely has something to worry about!

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