Capitalism in space: SpaceX engineers today successfully completed three static fire tests of their Starship prototype #9, all within a space of just over three hours.
The three-engine SN9 vehicle performed its second, third and fourth “static fire” tests in quick succession today (Jan. 13) at SpaceX’s South Texas facilities, near the Gulf Coast village of Boca Chica. The engines lit up briefly at 1:28 p.m. EST (1828 GMT), again at 3:22 p.m. EST (2022 GMT) and then yet again at 4:36 p.m. EST (2136 GMT).
During static fires, engines blaze briefly while a vehicle remains tethered to the ground. SN9 already had one such test under its belt, having completed a short static fire on Jan. 6.
In each case they likely practiced their countdown and fueling procedures, followed by procedures allowing for a quick recycle should they have to abort a countdown but have time to still launch that day.
All this strengthens the reliability and overall design and operation of the rocket as they develop it.
The actual hop could occur, based on road closure announcements, on Friday. It is also possible the company will do additional static fire tests beforehand.
I think it also pertinent to once again compare SpaceX’s development approach to that of Boeing and NASA in their development of SLS. SpaceX is aggressively doing a lot of tests of hardware, continually. They then redesign and rebuild based on those tests. The pace is fast and compressed, and gets things built at a remarkable low cost, considering. It also forces them to design things in a way that makes redesign easy and fast.
Boeing and NASA have done no such tests in building SLS. Instead, they designed it by computer, giving themselves large safety margins in design. This might have reduced or eliminated the need for tests, but it raises the cost of the rocket while stretching out the development time enormously. And it carries great risk. In two days they will attempt their very first static fire test of SLS’s core stage, after almost a decade of development. The actual launch is planned for within a year.
If that static fire test has any issues, the whole SLS project will face serious problems that will, based on its design, be very difficult to fix.