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 (opens in new tab). Rumors suggest that the company is targeting late afternoon (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab). The stream is live now.
Related: SpaceX's 1st orbital Starship looks supercool in these fueling test photos
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.
If everything goes well with this trial and other checkouts, the debut orbital test flight could lift off as soon as next month, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said recently.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).