SpaceX recently conducted a test launch of the massive Super Heavy rocket booster, attempting to fire all 33 engines. This test represents the company's first static fire test of the most powerful launch vehicle in history.
During the test, the Super Heavy rocket booster fired its engines for less than 10 seconds while remaining secured to the launch pad. The explosion produced a huge cloud of smoke and dust, but only 31 engines worked, viz confirmed SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in a tweet on Thursday.
“The team shut down 1 engine just before the start and another stopped on its own. So a total of 31 engines were fired, but still enough to get into orbit!”
The test was a major milestone in the development of the Starship system, which consists of the Super Heavy rocket booster and a spacecraft. It is intended to carry people and large amounts of cargo into deep space, the moon and Mars. The test launch was conducted without the Starship spacecraft on top of the booster.
Gwynne Shotwell, the company's president and COO, referred to the test as "a big day for SpaceX" during a conference in Washington on Wednesday.
Shotwell also said that the static fire test is "the last ground test we can do before we fire the engines and go for the first flight test." That test, which could potentially send the Starship spacecraft into orbit for the first time, could take place "within the next month or so."
The company and the general public have been waiting for an orbital flight test for over a year now, as Elon Musk hinted on his Twitter account that it might take place in July 2021. It's worth mentioning that Musk usually makes very ambitious predictions ,, and are often off schedule. However, SpaceX is still awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to proceed with the orbital flight test.
The FAA, on the other hand, is waiting to "make sure that SpaceX has all the necessary permits, full safety and other regulatory regulations."
In 2022, the FAA presented SpaceX with a list of 75 measures to be implemented to protect the environment. The company's South Texas launch test program is located near wildlife refuges, and has faced strong backlash from environmental groups and local residents who lost access to a nearby public beach.
Shotwell said Wednesday that "there will always be work to be done" for the FAA's permitting process. Shotwell acknowledged that SpaceX routinely misses launch deadlines, particularly in its decision to send the first Starship mission to Mars.
“We're not good at predicting timelines. Certainly, within this decade, we will land men on the moon, if not a few years from now. And then Ares? Hopefully this decade, or maybe early next decade, maybe 2030. Let's aim for 2030.”