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SpaceX fires up SN10 Starship prototype for 2nd time

SpaceX's Starship SN10 prototype (left) rolls out to its test stand while SN9 stands on its own pad at the company's South Texas facility near Boca Chica Village on Jan. 29, 2021. SN10 performed its second static-fire test on Feb. 25, 2021.
SpaceX's Starship SN10 prototype (left) rolls out to its test stand while SN9 stands on its own pad at the company's South Texas facility near Boca Chica Village on Jan. 29, 2021. SN10 performed its second static-fire test on Feb. 25, 2021. (Image credit: SpaceX/<a href=https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1355255403945332737>Elon Musk via Twitter</a>)

SpaceX has fired up its newest Starship prototype for the second time, continuing the vehicle's test-flight prep.

Starship SN10 ignited its three Raptor engines for a few seconds today (Feb. 25) at 5:57 p.m. EST (2257 GMT) in a "static fire" trial at SpaceX's South Texas site, near Boca Chica Village on the state's Gulf Coast.

SN10's first static fire, which occurred on Tuesday (Feb. 23), apparently revealed an issue with one of the vehicle's Raptors. SpaceX quickly swapped out the engine and got SN10 ready for another static fire, a common preflight checkout for the company's rockets.

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If all went well today, SN10 ("Serial No. 10") could get off the ground very soon, perhaps in the next few days. The vehicle will fly about 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) into the South Texas skies, a high-altitude jaunt similar to the ones flown by the three-engine SN8 and SN9 prototypes on Dec. 9 and Feb. 2, respectively.

Those two flights went well until the very end. Both SN8 and SN9 hit their targeted landing zones but did not survive the touchdown, exploding in massive fireballs.

SpaceX is developing Starship to get people and cargo to the moon, Mars and beyond. The system consists of two fully reusable elements: a 165-foot-tall (50 meters) spacecraft called Starship and a huge rocket known as Super Heavy.

The final Starship will have six Raptors, and Super Heavy will be powered by about 30 of the engines, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.

The final, operational Starship could be flying soon, if all goes according to plan. SpaceX hopes to launch a prototype into orbit sometime this year, and Musk recently said he thinks the system will be flying people regularly by 2023

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 Facebook. 

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Mike Wall
SPACE.COM SENIOR SPACE WRITER — Michael has been writing for Space.com since 2010. 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.