The SN5 prototype is now set for its “hop” test
On July 30, SpaceX conducted a successful static fire test for its Starship super-heavy launch vehicle in Boca Chica, Texas. The fifth Starship prototype (SN5) was able to ignite its single Raptor engine.
What is a static fire test?
In essence, a static fire test is the process of firing the engines of a rocket at full thrust. The engine(s) is fired for a few seconds while the launch vehicle remains attached to the launch mount. The latter can either have a payload attached to it or not.
The duration of static fire tests is less than 10 seconds, so total wear on the rocket is very limited.
What is the purpose of a static fire test?
A static fire test is a critical process before a launch vehicle prototype can be classified as a fully-operational one.
A static fire test can test the following:
- The rocket’s first stage engines. In the case of the Starship SN5 prototype, it is the aforementioned Raptor engine.
- The entire countdown process: It involves fueling the rocket’s first and second stage. The ability of the payload to run off on internal power. Last but not least, the ability to communicate with ground control before liftoff.
In a way, a static fire test acts can be labeled as a quality control and risk assessment test. It is a process by which entities (SpaceX engineers) review the quality of all factors involved in the product (the Starship).
A long hard road that finally came to fruition
This latest test came about after a long and arduous process for SpaceX. It came after approximately three weeks of delays and aborted attempts.
The second failed attempt was due to Hurricane Hanna. This was the first hurricane to make landfall in Texas since 2008, and proceeded to damage a connector on the Starship. The third attempt was aborted due to a crucial fuel valve that failed to open, according to Elon Musk. The SpaceX founder also stated that there was “some odd TVC hydraulic pump behavior”.
In any case, all the bugs were fixed and the static fire’s fourth attempt was successful.
In conclusion, the success of the static fire test will now pave the way for the first flight test of a full-scale Starship in the near future.
One more step towards the Moon, one more step towards Mars!