A senior SpaceX official has said that following a successful static-fire test of the Super Heavy’s engines, the next-generation rocket is ready for its first orbital test flight.
Gary Henry, SpaceX’s senior director for national security space solutions, said at this week’s Space Mobility conference in Orlando, Florida, that the engine test two weeks ago was “the last box to check” ahead of the rocket’s maiden test flight.
In comments reported by Space News, Henry added that both the launch vehicle and the launchpad were in “good shape” following the “successful hot fire,” which saw almost all of the rocket’s 33 Raptor 2 engines briefly blast into life in an exercise to confirm their readiness for flight.
SpaceX boss Elon Musk shared footage of the test in a tweet.
Two of the 33 engines failed to fire at full thrust during the test, leaving some to wonder if SpaceX might need to repeat the activity with all of the engines firing at the same time. However, Henry’s comments this week suggest the team is now making final preparations for launch and has no plan to conduct a second test.
Now SpaceX is waiting for launch permission from the Federal Aviation Administration. The company is expecting to receive the permit soon, as it’s eyeing March for the test flight.
The upcoming mission will see the Super Heavy — the most powerful rocket ever built — lift the Starship spacecraft to orbit from SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas.
NASA is hoping to one day use the launch system for crewed missions to the moon and possibly the first crewed missions to Mars, giving it another transportation option alongside its recently tested Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft.
A modified version of the Starship spacecraft is set to land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface by the end of this decade as part of the highly anticipated Artemis III mission.
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