At its launch facility in South Texas on Sunday, SpaceX conducted a static fire test of a new Super Heavy booster. There were both pros and negatives to be learned from the short-duration test firing, which involved the activation of 33 engines.
A Step Closer to Second Starship Rocket
The rocket, known as Booster 9, survived the test and seemed to be in fine shape thereafter. It is the ninth rocket to be manufactured using SpaceX’s iterative design technique. The company’s completely redesigned ground systems, which included an improved water suppression system, looked to work well in safeguarding the rocket and the launch pad, which is also a plus.
The test did not, however, last the entire time. According to SpaceX’s webcast, it didn’t last the full five seconds but ceased after 2.74 seconds. In addition, four of the rocket’s 33 primary Raptor engines prematurely switched off. This suggests that despite significant efforts to enhance the performance of its Raptor engines, SpaceX is still having reliability issues. The “Raptor 2” engines that power this rocket are being updated into the “Raptor 3” model by SpaceX in order to improve reliability.
Even so, SpaceX made progress with Sunday’s tests, putting it one step closer to launching its Starship rocket a second time. The Super Heavy booster and Starship upper stage make up the rocket’s whole stack. It is unknown if SpaceX will continue testing this Super Heavy booster or if the data collected on Sunday was sufficient to move on with a launch attempt this autumn.
Water Deluge System
As a result, it is unclear how close SpaceX is to making another Starship launch attempt. For instance, Booster 7, which propelled the first Starship launch, had a static fire test prior to its liftoff, which took place 70 days later. The Super Heavy booster stage’s voyage was doomed by engine faults and other complications during this first launch attempt on April 20.
However, because SpaceX can only close the road to its launch site and Boca Chica Beach on a select number of weekends, this most recent test had to take place on a Sunday. Since the April 20 launch attempt, which seriously damaged the company’s Orbital Launch Mount and related ground infrastructure in South Texas, SpaceX has made significant progress. The installation of a sizable water deluge system and what looked to be a successful test of it on July 28 are of particular note.
The technique uses a thick plate of perforated steel underneath the rocket through which water jets are sprayed to dissipate the heat and noise produced by 33 Raptor engines running at once. This new water deluge system produced an enormous amount of steam on Sunday, as was expected.