SpaceX Super Heavy Fires Up For Engine Test

Credit: SpaceX webcast

SpaceX fired up 32 of the 33 Raptor engines on its first Starship/Super Heavy booster for a static hot-fire on Feb. 9, completing a major ground test ahead of the vehicle’s debut launch.

A second Raptor engine shut down on its own, leaving a total of 31 engines burning for several seconds as the 230-ft.-tall rocket remained bolted to its launchpad at SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas, complex.

“[The] team turned off one engine just before start and one stopped itself, so 31 engines fired overall,” SpaceX founder, CEO and chief engineer Elon Musk wrote on Twitter. “But still enough engines to reach orbit!”

The static engine firing, which occurred around 4:14 pm. EST, lasted for what appeared to be about 5 sec., a SpaceX webcast showed. “Full duration,” the company noted on Twitter. 

Following analysis, SpaceX may be ready to proceed with an orbital flight test of the two-stage Starship/Super Heavy launch system as early as next month. 

Starship is a reusable, Mars-class vehicle with more than twice the thrust of NASA’s Saturn V and Space Launch System Moon rockets. Among the customers for Starship is NASA, which plans to use a variant to transport astronauts to and from lunar orbit and the Moon’s surface.

Irene Klotz

Irene Klotz is Senior Space Editor for Aviation Week, based in Cape Canaveral. Before joining Aviation Week in 2017, Irene spent 25 years as a wire service reporter covering human and robotic spaceflight, commercial space, astronomy, science and technology for Reuters and United Press International.