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Starship prototype #9 completes three static fire tests in one day

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.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

3 comments

  • ” 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.”

    I have several documentaries of aerospace testing in the late 50’s to mid 60’s. Engineers are testing lifting bodies behind some guy’s hot rod. The Wright’s did the same thing: they knew they were going to crash a lot, and planned accordingly.

    Bend some tin. Get that stuff in action.

  • john hare

    Keep the jets hot, skin cool, and wheels in the wells. Equipment that don’t run is scrap iron.

  • One reason I sometimes use the term “rocket scientist” as a pejorative, is the inclination of some to ignore the devils in the surrounding details and paint themselves into corners. Competent engineering plans for change from the start, even if it means some deviation from making the product “perfect”.

    Competence is best learned, in an environment where one’s competence is measured against objective reality on a near-daily basis … and consequences are assigned based upon that measurement in a timely manner. Which is why SpaceX is moving us towards a cosmic Jamestown, while SLS is still figuring out how to untie from the dock.

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