SpaceX will attempt a static-fire test of all 33 engines in its Starship booster as soon as Feb. 9, a test that could allow the company to attempt an orbital launch a month later.
Speaking at the Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference here Feb. 8, Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, announced the impending test, the final major technical milestone before the vehicle’s first orbital launch attempt.
“Tomorrow is a big day for SpaceX. We are going to attempt a 33-engine static fire booster test for Starship,” she said. “It’s really the final ground test that we can do before we light ‘em up and go.”
Shotwell told reporters after her talk that she believed changes the company made will prevent pad damage from the upcoming more powerful test. “I don’t expect the pad to have the same issues that we had during the 14-engine static fire,” she said. “We’ve done some work on the pad.” She didn’t elaborate on the changes.
I have no idea. Marcus House’s recent weekly space reports have shown some Raptor engines being swapped out on Booster 7 at the orbital launch mount, so some of the 33 engines are newly installed. As I understand it, all Raptor engines are test-fired individually at McGregor before being shipped to Starbase, but the only test firing of engines at Starbase is as part of vehicle static tests. But prior to yesterday’s test, the largest static test of Booster 7 was the 14 engine test on 2022-11-14, so more than half of the engines now installed on Booster 7 have never been fired at Starbase.
SpaceX is now building an engine test facility adjacent to Starbase, which appears to be motivated to speed up Raptor integration by avoiding shipping back and forth to McGregor.