Recently, the fifth prototype of SpaceX Starship has successfully started its only Raptor engine in a test known as a static fire, paving the way for the first full-scale flight of a Starship as early as this weekend.
After nearly three weeks of delays and several aborted attempts, SpaceX was able to fix a variety of relatively minor hardware bugs described by CEO Elon Musk on July 28th. The first static fire attempt was originally scheduled for July 10 and was gradually wounded by sliding several days at a time until July 25. Thus began a series of delays after static fire attempts – with different progress from each – were interrupted on July 25, 27 (x2) and the morning of the 30th.
Thankfully, though, those abortions and cleanups and delays are finally over ̵1; at least for now. If things go according to plan over the next few days and teams are able to correct a critical issue uncovered earlier this week, the Starship SN5 could become the first full-scale of its kind to remove (deliberately) just a few days from now on.
Prior to the successful Starship SN5 static fire on July 30, Musk revealed in a tweet that the second missile attempt was aborted on July 27 after Hurricane Hanna damaged a connector, apparently linked to telemetry and control. SpaceX fixed the issue and managed to extend its test window by several hours, allowing a second attempt later that night.
Unfortunately, the Starship static fire was cleared again by what Musk later described as an essential fuel valve that failed to open, as well as by “some weird [behavior]”Observed in a pump connected to the steering device of the Raptor engine. To complete the static fire as SpaceX would later two days later, the intricate “fuel rotation pump” would have to be fully fixed, but the Raptor push vector control pump (TVC) issues could have been extinguished for sure.
Given that SpaceX spent approximately 2.5 days inspecting and repairing Starship after the third static ceasefire, it is likely that they had time to fix any bugs that were ruining the Raptor hydraulic system. Regardless, Raptor’s TVC will have to function flawlessly before SpaceX goes ahead with the first full-scale Starship flight test. The 150m (500 ft) hop will be the first time a Starship prototype of approximately the same size – and built from the same materials – as an orbital-class spacecraft will attempt controlled flight.
Prior to the July 30 static fire, SpaceX had already registered some temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) – used to warn holders of held areas – with the FAA about hop test efforts on August 2 and 3. SpaceX will likely need 12-24 hours to analyze the data, inspect the Starship and set a timeline for the first hop attempt, but there is at least a small chance the company will push the Starship SN5 to fly as fast as this Sunday. Stay tuned while things play out and the hop test gets a more concrete date.
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