SpaceX has just launched its latest Starship prototype engine, paving the way for a test flight in the near future.
The company conducted a “static fire” test of Starship SN5 today (July 30), which left its single Rotor engine while blazef the vehicle remained tied to the ground at SpaceX facilities in South Texas, near the village of Boca Chica.
The successful trial apparently earned the SN5 stainless steel, a test version of Starship’s spacecraft that colonizes Mars, a chance to slide its leash.
“Starship SN5 has just completed static fire over a full period. 150m hop soon,” founder and CEO of SpaceX announced via Twitter today (30 July)
Related: Starship’s Starship and Super Heavy Mars Rocket in Photos
SpaceX was iterated towards the final design of Starship through a series of SN prototypes. Most SN5 predecessors lost at some point in the testing process, either during pressure tests or static fires. SN4, for example, exploded during a static fire on 30 May, the fifth such test for the prototype.
But SpaceX doesn’t seem inclined to submit the SN5 to so many engine trials. If Musk’s tweet is any guidance, the vehicle could soar about 500 feet (150 meters) into the southern Texas skies sometime in the coming days.
Only one Starship prototype has made such a flight yet to be completed to this day: the stubby Starhopper, an early variant that was withdrawn after we left several hundred feet off the ground in August 2019.
The final version of Starship will have six Raptor engines, which are about 50 m) tall and will be able to carry up to 100 people, Musk said. The space shuttle will be launched on a giant rocket called Super Heavy, which will be powered by 31 of its own Raptors.
Starship and Super Heavy will be able to be reused fully and quickly, Musk said. The billionaire entrepreneur predicts that the duo will eventually fill all of SpaceX’s needs, from the launch of satellites to Earth’s orbit to the passenger ferry to the moon, Mars and beyond.
The spaceflow system can be operated quickly and if testing and development go well. SpaceX representatives said the first Starship / Super Heavy missions – most likely commercial communications satellite launches – could arrive as early as 2021.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.