SpaceX wrapped up a busy 2023 by blasting all 33 Raptor engines on its Super Heavy rocket — the most powerful in the world.
Footage of the static fire test shows the Super Heavy booster blasting out millions of pounds of thrust as the Raptor engines are put through their paces ahead of the rocket’s next test flight.
Static fire of Super Heavy’s 33 Raptor engines ahead of Flight 3 pic.twitter.com/rJqNToMCnU
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 29, 2023
The Elon Musk-led spaceflight company conducted the engine test at its Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, on Saturday.
It’s the same place from where SpaceX will launch the Starship — comprising the first-stage Super Heavy booster and second-stage Starship spacecraft — on its third test flight once it gets permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The first two test flights of the Starship, which took place in April and November 2023, ended suddenly when the rockets exploded in midair. However, unlike the maiden flight, the second test achieved stage separation. But SpaceX has yet to achieve an orbital flight with the spacecraft, something it hopes to accomplish during its third test.
The FAA is currently conducting an investigation into the second test flight of the Starship. That’s expected to be completed in the coming weeks, paving the way for SpaceX to send the Starship skyward again.
Once the rocket is shown to be reliable in flight — and that could took a while yet — SpaceX wants to use it to send the first humans to Mars.
Before then, it will be deployed for crew and cargo missions to the lunar surface as part of NASA’s Artemis program. NASA is aiming to land the first woman and first person of color on the moon in 2025 using a modified version of the Starship spacecraft. In that mission, NASA will use its SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft to send the astronauts to lunar orbit, after which they’ll transfer to the Starship HLS lander for the final leg of the journey to the lunar surface.
SpaceX has had its busiest year ever in terms of launches, achieving nearly 100 liftoffs with its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket and more powerful Falcon Heavy vehicle. Most missions deployed satellites for various companies and organizations — including for SpaceX’s own internet-from-space Starlink program — while the Falcon 9 was also involved in several crewed missions to and from the International Space Station.
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