SpaceX aims to fire up all 33 Raptor engines on the giant first-stage booster of its Starship vehicle today (Feb. 9) for the first time ever, according to media reports.
SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell broke the news at a conference yesterday (Feb. 8), according to SpaceNews' Jeff Foust. Rumors suggest that the company is targeting late afternoon for the test, which will occur at SpaceX's Starbase facility in South Texas.
You can watch a webcast of the "static fire" trial and the events leading up to it via NASASpaceflight.com. The stream is live now.
SpaceX is developing Starship to take people and cargo to the moon, Mars and (perhaps) beyond. The stainless-steel vehicle consists of two elements, both of which are designed to be reusable: A huge first-stage booster called Super Heavy and a 165-foot-tall (50 meters) upper stage known as Starship.
Super Heavy is powered by 33 of SpaceX's next-generation Raptor engines, and Starship features six of them.
The company is gearing up for the first-ever Starship orbital test flight, which will involve the Booster 7 Super Heavy prototype and an upper-stage variant called Ship 24.
Those preparations include static fires with both craft, in which their engines are briefly ignited while the vehicles remained anchored to the ground. Ship 24 has already fired up all six of its engines, but today's test will break new ground for Booster 7: The vehicle has never ignited more than 14 of its 33 Raptors simultaneously.
Today's planned Booster 7 static fire is therefore a huge milestone, and one of the biggest hurdles to clear before Starship can make its first orbital attempt.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.