SpaceX completed its record spacecraft amplifier test and sent a newer Super Heavy prototype to the launcher just a few hours apart.
Almost six weeks after SpaceX launched its Super Heavy Booster 7 static fire test campaign, the company entered a new level by firing seven Raptor engines simultaneously. Hours later, confirming the plans of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in real time, the company transported the second Super Heavy prototype (Booster 8) from the factory to the launch pad where it joined Booster 7.
According to Musk, these rockets will swap places soon, ensuring no time is wasted, while SpaceX will continue to gradually work on its first attempts at an orbital spacecraft.
Booster 7 kicked off the most important phase of the flight qualification process on August 9 and 11 with two static fires stacked one after the other, each of which ignited only one of the 20 Raptor engines installed. Both were successful, and SpaceX returned the B7 to its factory in Boca Chica, Texas, reinstalled a full set of 33 engines, and sent the Super Heavy back to the launcher two weeks later.
On August 31, SpaceX attempted to set fire to three of the 33 Booster 7 Raptor 7. One engine failed but the other failed, resulting in a mostly successful dual engine test. Over the next two weeks, SpaceX conducted several no-fire spin-prime tests, two of which appeared to spin all 33 engines without causing an explosion. Finally, SpaceX telegraphed its next major target with a seven-engine spin-prime test on September 16 and another (though with a little different engines) on September 19.
Shortly after the second seven-engine ignition pump, SpaceX refilled the Booster 7 with fuel, followed the same procedures, and fired the same seven engines for about five seconds. No obvious problems arose, and Musk later suggested the test fared well. It set a new record for the highest number of Raptor fires simultaneously on a single prototype, and possibly also broke the record for most of the thrust produced by a vehicle tested at Starbase.
If all seven upgraded Raptor V2 engines were run at full throttle, they could shortly produce over 1,600 tons (~ 3.6 million lbf) of thrust – roughly the equivalent of two Falcon 9 afterburners. Measuring approximately 69 meters (~ 225 ft) high and 9 meters (~ 30 feet) wide, the Super Heavy will be the most powerful liquid rocket booster ever tested, once it fires only 20 of the 33 engines at full thrust.
In an increasingly rare update, Musk revealed that SpaceX would once again return Booster 7 to the Starbase factory for mysterious “endurance upgrades” following the final round of testing. Musk doesn’t seem to think these improvements will take very long, and predicts Starbase’s “next big test” will be the first complete wet-dress practice of a fully assembled two-stage spacecraft, followed by the first 33-engine Super Heavy static fire test. a few weeks”.
Most likely, each step of the process will require multiple trials and disclosure of issues that will then need to be corrected and verified within a few months. But given that Starship 24 has now completed its full six-engine static fire, there’s a slim chance that SpaceX will end up with a fully stacked spacecraft that is roughly ready for its first launch attempt at the end of October.
Meanwhile, when Booster 7 returns to the factory, Booster 8 – finally completed after a relatively slow six-month assembly – will begin basic evidence testing at the SpaceX space launch site in South Texas. SpaceX wasted no time preparing for this swap and transported the Booster 8 to the washer just seven hours after the seven-engine static Booster 7 fire. factory to install Raptor before the B7 update is complete – a very efficient transition if it does.