SpaceX’s third high-altitude Starship prototype appears to have successfully ignited its trio of Raptor engines, raising the odds of another take-off and landing attempt later this week.
Following an earlier attempt that was discontinued before refueling began on February 22, SpaceX managed to turn Starship serial number 10 (SN10) and its launch facilities into another attempt ~ 24 hours later. Unlike Starship SN9, which went through four torturous weeks of scrubbed, interrupted and non-nominal static fire test attempts before it was finally cleared for flight; Starship SN1
Of course, it remains to be seen if the test was really a success. Observations over long distances that look outside leave little or no room for nuanced interpretation, and the difference between a good and a bad test may be too subtle to detect with the naked eye.
Yesterday’s interrupted attempts never made it past the activation of the tank farm, but could have been caused by ground support equipment (GSE), Starship itself or something completely different. Almost 24 hours later, the Starship SN10 fired up all three of its Raptor engines after a smooth, flawless test flow. The only static fire served at the same time as the massive steel rocket’s first wet test (WDR) with live (and flammable) liquid methane and oxygen propellant, making such a clean stream much more impressive and encouraging.
Nevertheless, one of the last remaining residents of Boca Chica Village reported that they had received a standard security alert distributed by SpaceX about 40 minutes after SN10’s static fire. These alarms serve as reminders for residents to stay away from their home windows during Starship static fire testing to reduce the risk of injury in the event that a given test goes wrong and a vehicle explodes.
To could means that SpaceX quickly determined that Tuesday’s static fire was unsatisfactory, although it could just as easily be SpaceX revealing its bets in the event that it needs to repeat SN10’s static fire on Wednesday, February 24th. If Tuesday’s test went well, SpaceX could turn SN10 into a launch attempt as early as Thursday and move to Friday if a hypothetical static fire redux goes Wednesday. Keep an eye out for updates (and hopefully confirmation from CEO Elon Musk).