On August 23, SpaceX successfully completed a static fire test for its Starship SN6 prototype. The SN6’s SN29 Raptor engine was ignited without any troubles.
SpaceX is now on track to conduct its second Starship hop test in less than three weeks. Back on August 11, SpaceX performed a 150m hop test for its Starship SN5 prototype.
As Usual, a Cryogenic Proof Test before the Static Fire Test
On August 11, SpaceX rolled out its Starship SN6 prototype to its launch facility located in Boca Chica, Texas. The SN6 is 9 meters (29 feet) wide and approximately 30 meters (98 feet) tall.
As previously discussed a cryogenic proof test comes before a static fire test. The main purpose of a cryogenic test is to verify if a spacecraft’s tanks can withstand flight pressures.
The tanks are filled with Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) that have a boiling point of -195.8 °C. If the spacecraft’s tanks maintain their structural integrity during that process, technicians can proceed to performing the static fire test.
The static fire test’s main objectives are the following:
- Verifying the viability and effectiveness of the Raptor engine.
- Testing the countdown process. First, it involves fueling the rocket’s first and second stage. Secondly, the ability of the payload to run off on internal power. Thirdly, the ability to communicate with ground control before liftoff.
No Pain, No Gain
As usual, the process was not devoid of its fair share of hiccups. SpaceX was allocated a static fire test window between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. EDT by Texas’ Cameron County. The test window involves road closure notices for nearby residents and drivers.
The first static fire test attempt began around 9:30 a.m. but was soon aborted. SpaceX technicians returned to the launch pad for troubleshooting purposes.
The second attempt began at approximately 2:30 p.m. and was aborted a little over an hour later at 3:41 p.m. The SN6 was then detanked and the launch pad was cleared around 6:30 p.m.
The static fire test was finally complete around 7:45 p.m., barely 15 minutes before the end of the test window.
As previously stated, the SN6 prototype is set for a hop test. The hop test does NOT determine the viability of the Starship in general.
SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk already mentioned that there will be numerous hop tests for all prototypes. Those hop tests will pave the way for future prototypes to launch as high as 20 kilometers (approximately 12.5 miles).