SpaceX's Starship SN9 Executes Successful Static Fire, Launching Soon
SpaceX's Starship SN9 successfully executed a static fire test on Friday, after replacing two engines since last week's issues, according to an initial report from NASASpaceFlight.com.
This means the next Starship launch (of SN9) could happen next week — possibly on Monday, Jan. 25, as of writing.
RELATED: SPACEX SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHED STARSHIP SN8, EXPLODED ON LANDING
SpaceX's Starship SN9 executes successful static fire flow
Starship SN9 recovered rapidly from engine problems after last week's triple static fire test — and while the possibility of a launch this week existed, repeated aborted attempts at a static fire flow pushed a possible launch back to sometime next week.
Starship had aimed to offer a more streamlined pad testing process compared to that of its predecessor — SN8. But upon initial testing, the SN9's three raptors didn't fire for the full duration of the static test, which meant the test would need to be tried again.
Following road closures and fueling operations, the SN9 aimed to launch sometime later this week. But once the first ignition had completed, the typical double-vent we usually see afterward didn't happen.
Today at SpaceX is about practicing Starship engine starts. Ship is held down by massive pins while engines are fired. Two starts completed, about to try a third.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 13, 2021
Triple static fire tests potential to fly Starship three times per day
So instead of the characteristic detanking operations we usually see after a test, SN9 was recycled for a second, then a third static fire test. CEO SpaceX Elon Musk tweeted: "Today at SpaceX is about practicing Starship engine starts. Two starts completed, about to try a third."
This process gives the company the chance to test out "rapid refueling and reuse" — which is integral to Starship's operational design, NASASpaceflight.com reports. In 2020, Musk noted how Starship's aim is to fly at least three trips, daily.
Last week's tests revealed Starship SN9 needed replacement engines
Having finished testing procedures, follow-up observations were made and found that only two of the three Raptor engines had fired during the second and third tests.
Later, the SpaceX team discovered how one of the "tri-vents" was turned off, which meant one of the engines was inactive for the latter two tests.
In a reply to himself, Musk had tweeted: "All three static fires completed & no RUDs. Detanking & inspections now. Good progress towards our 'Hop in & go to Mars!' goal," but it was later revealed why one of the engines didn't fire for the second and third tests.
SpaceX's SN9 aims for possible Monday, Jan. 25 launch
New Raptors were then sent into the launch pad, to swap out the two faulty ones, with a quick enough turnaround time to resume attempts at static fire tests on Monday, Jan. 18 — although all attempts were aborted, until Friday's.
While a review of the vehicle and the engine's performance on Friday is still pending, the path to launching the Starship SN9 is nearly open, with the earliest possible launch date set for Monday, Jan. 25.
SpaceX's Starship SN9 aims for a launch test much like SN8's — without the colossal explosion at the end. But for now, how high Elon Musk wants the new vehicle to go remains to be seen.
Verena Mohaupt, logistics coordinator of MOSAiC, Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate, talks about the perilous journey.