SpaceX’s Starship SN8 prototype fires its engines for the 2nd time




SpaceX’s Starship SN8 prototype fires its engines for the 2nd time

SpaceX’s latest Starship prototype just fired its engines for the second time, potentially paving the way for a 9-mile-high (15 kilometers) test flight in the near future.

The SN8 (“Serial No. 8”) vehicle blazed up for a few seconds Tuesday evening (Nov. 10) in a “static fire” test at SpaceX’s South Texas facilities, near the seaside village of Boca Chica. Video of the test was captured by the South Padre Island tourism site

Static fires, in which rocket engines ignite while the vehicle remains on the ground, are a common prelaunch checkout. SN8 had already performed one such test in the wee hours of Oct. 20.

Tuesday’s trial was more dramatic than the first one in a couple of ways. First of all, SN8 looked much more like a real spaceship this time than it did last month, sporting a nose cone that SpaceX personnel had stacked atop its previously bare-bones body on Oct. 22.

In addition, Tuesday’s static fire featured some minor fireworks; the engine ignition briefly sent sparks, or flaming shards of something, flying into the Texas night. But SN8 emerged apparently intact, so if something off-nominal happened, it didn’t seem to be serious.

Starship is SpaceX’s next-generation spaceflight system, which the company is developing to help colonize Mars, launch satellites to orbit and do everything else SpaceX needs done. The system consists of a 165-foot-tall (50 meters) spacecraft called Starship and a giant rocket known as Super Heavy, which will get its partner vehicle off Earth. (Starship will be powerful enough to launch itself off the moon and Mars, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.)

Both of these fully reusable vehicles will be powered by SpaceX’s new Raptor engine. Starship will sport six Raptors and Super Heavy will have about 30.

SpaceX is iterating toward the final Starship design via a series of increasingly ambitious prototypes. For example, SN8 features three Raptors, whereas none of its predecessors had more than one.


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