Starship is ‘highly likely’ to launch in March after passing key test

Elon Musk recently stated a March orbital launch attempt of the giant Starship rocket was "highly likely".
Chris Young
Booster 7 during the "static fire" test.
Booster 7 during the "static fire" test.

SpaceX / Twitter 

In a first, SpaceX's massive Starship rocket powered all 31 of its next-generation Raptor engines simultaneously.

Though it didn't launch skyward, the successful "static fire" engine test, carried out yesterday, February 9, at 4:13 pm EST (2113 GMT), is a massive milestone for SpaceX.

The company's CEO Elon Musk recently tweeted that a massive rocket's February or March orbital launch attempt was "highly likely" if "remaining tests go well."

Starship just aced what is arguably the most important pre-launch test, meaning an orbital launch may be just around the corner.

Starship fires up its engines ahead of orbital launch attempt

SpaceX ignited 31 of its massive Booster 7 prototype's 33 Raptor engines during its static fire test at its Starbase facility in South Texas. The test lasted approximately seven seconds, as planned.

Booster 7 is the prototype Super Heavy first stage SpaceX intends to use to launch Ship 24 to orbit next month. Ship 24 is the 165-foot-tall (50-meter) Starship upper stage prototype.

The goal for yesterday's static fire was to fire up all 33 Raptor engines simultaneously, though Elon Musk still sees the test as a success.

"Team turned off 1 engine just before start & 1 stopped itself, so 31 engines fired overall. But still enough engines to reach orbit!" the SpaceX CEO wrote on Twitter shortly afterward.

That means SpaceX is near the end of a months-long campaign to prepare Starship for its first orbital flight. Musk recently cautioned that, though a launch attempt is just around the corner, "success is far from certain" — though "excitement is guaranteed." SpaceX also shared footage of the static fire engine test on Twitter, which is viewable above. A longer video showing the entire lead-up to the test, is added below.

Starship will be the world's most powerful rocket

Starship and Super Heavy are both designed to be fully reusable, though the two prototypes for the orbital test flight will be expendable.

Booster 7 will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico shortly after sending Ship 24 on its way to orbit. Once Ship 24 makes it to orbit, it will circle Earth once before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian island of Kauai. 

Starship is expected to revolutionize humanity's spaceflight capabilities. Once operational, it will generate a staggering 17 million pounds of thrust using its 33 Raptor engines. This means it will become the world's most powerful rocket by some distance, surpassing NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), which generated roughly 8.8 million lbs of thrust for its Artemis I mission.

The Starship rocket is part of Elon Musk's long-held plan to send humans to Mars using a fully reusable system that drastically reduces the cost of successive launches. A modified version of Starship will also be used as a lunar lander for NASA's upcoming Artemis III mission.

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