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Watch SpaceX blast its megarocket engines in spectacular test

SpaceX recently lit all 33 Raptor engines on the Super Heavy booster in a static fire test ahead of its fourth flight.

The tethered test took place at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, and was performed without the Starship spacecraft atop the booster. The company shared a video showing the engines firing up:

Static fire of the Flight 4 Super Heavy booster

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 6, 2024

It also posted some dramatic images captured during the same test:

Additional views from today’s Super Heavy static fire

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 6, 2024

Once SpaceX receives launch permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), SpaceX will lift the Starship into position. Fully stacked, the vehicle is known as the Starship, and with 17 million pounds of thrust at launch, the rocket is the most powerful rocket ever to fly.

Its first test flight took place in April last year but lasted only a few minutes before an anomaly prompted SpaceX engineers to blow up the rocket. Seven months later, in November, the Starship flew again. That time, it managed to achieve stage separation, but once again, the vehicle failed relatively early on.

After much work, the third test took place in March and was by far the Starship’s most successful flight to date, completing many of the mission’s objectives. SpaceX said the fourth flight could launch in May, subject to approval from the FAA.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said recently that for the fifth flight, he wants to attempt to land the first-stage Super Heavy booster back at Starbase in the same way that SpaceX lands its smaller Falcon 9 rocket shortly after launch, a process that paves the way for repeated use of the same components, thereby cutting costs. It could also attempt to land the Starship spacecraft in a test in 2025. Currently, both parts of the Starship are designed to fall into the water at the end of their respective flights.

Musk also said he wants to increase the frequency of Starship tests as it seeks to prepare a modified version of the Starship spacecraft to land NASA’s Artemis III astronauts on the moon in a mission currently targeted for September 2026. Looking further ahead, the megarocket could also be used to carry the first humans to Mars.

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Trevor Mogg
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