SpaceX just launched the engine of its latest prototype Starship, paving the way for a test flight in the near future.
The company conducted a “static fire” test of the Starship SN5 today (July 30), leaving its own Raptor engines flames as the vehicle remained grounded at SpaceX South Texas facilities near the village of Boca Chica.
The successful trial apparently won the SN5 stainless steel, a test version of SpaceX’s Mars colonization spacecraft Starship, a chance to remove its neck.
“Starship SN5 just finished full-time static fire. 150m soon,”; SpaceX founder and CEO announced via Twitter today (July 30).
Related: SpaceX Starship and Super Heavy Mars Rocket in Photography
SpaceX has been repeating towards the final Starship modeling through a series of SN prototypes. Most of the SN5 ancestors were lost at some point in the testing process, either during pressure tests or static fires. SN4, for example, exploded during a static fire on May 30th, the fifth such test for the prototype.
But SpaceX does not seem prone to subject the SN5 to so much engine testing. If Musk’s tweet is any guide, the vehicle could rise about 500 feet (150 meters) into the South Texas sky sometime in the coming days.
Only one prototype of the Starship has made such an unparalleled flight to date: the stubborn Starhopper, an early variant that retired after taking a few hundred feet off the ground in August 2019.
The latest version of the Starship will have six Raptor engines, stand about 165 meters (50 m) long and be able to transport up to 100 people, Musk said. The spacecraft will launch a giant rocket called Super Heavy, which will be powered by 31 Raptors of its own.
Starship and Super Heavy will be fully and quickly reusable, Musk said. The billionaire entrepreneur envisions the duo finally meeting all of SpaceX’s needs, from launching satellites into Earth orbit to passenger trajectory on the Moon, Mars and beyond.
The space flight system can be set up and operated quickly if testing and development go well. Representatives of SpaceX have said that the first Starship / Super Heavy missions – most likely the launch of commercial communications satellites – could come as early as 2021.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.