SpaceX has accidentally produced a polar contrast to Starship serial number 9 (SN9), which runs a trio of Raptor ignition tests last week in four hours, now three static fires backwards interrupt January 20.
On January 13, the Starship SN9 successfully ignited its Raptor engine somewhat three times without any practical human intervention or inspections. Despite an impressive achievement, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk soon revealed that two of the rocket’s three engines were damaged during the test campaign. NASASpaceflight.com later reported that the company had detected one Raptor problem after the first three-engine static fire, eventually a firewall, and running the next two static fires with only two engines.
SpaceX initially set aside five days to replace the two damaged Raptors (SN44 & SN46), with road closures (test plan indicator) scheduled for January 18, 19, and 20. Windows 18th and 19th went through without attempts. Finally, on the 20th, SpaceX began the first actual test test of Starship SN9 after engine replacement at about 2 p.m., but it was suspended by 3 p.m.
After a very lively recycling, Starship probably did less than a minute from the ignition, but the second attempt was eventually suspended at about 3:40 p.m.
Two hours later, as SpaceX extended the end of the road closure from 5 to 8 p.m., Starship SN9’s third static Raptor fire attempt was also suspended – once again just a minute or less away from ignition.
SpaceX still held the Starship SN9 for about an hour after the third break, but eventually began a final emptying and depressurization at about 6:50 p.m., marking the end of the day’s attempts.
It is impossible to say what caused the interruptions made on Wednesday backwards or if the three cases were linked. While it’s frustrating to watch from the sidelines, it’s important to remember that the audience gets a truly unprecedented ongoing picture of SpaceX’s process of developing and refining a world-class launcher. In addition, each suspended Starship should theoretically produce valuable information that both Starship and Raptor teams can use to better understand how to design, build, test, and operate a state-of-the-art vehicle and its engines.
More likely, SpaceX is prone to caution (and thus cautious hardware and software constraints) when trying to manufacture the Starship SN9 for its true data collection purpose – SN8-style high-launch and landing.
SpaceX is currently scheduled retries with a new series of static Starship SN9 series company on Thursday, January 21 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST (UTC-6).
Meanwhile, before several Wednesday deviations of the SN9, SpaceX rolled the latest series of Starship test tanks from the factory to the launch pad. The team quickly attached the tank to a concrete cushion and connected it to ground handling equipment to prepare for a series of tests that are likely to end with SpaceX deliberately pressurizing the tank until it bursts. If successful, it will open the door for future starships to save weight by cutting the thickness of the steel surface from 4 mm to 3 mm.
Stay tuned for updates on both active test campaigns.