SpaceX hot fire tests its Starship vehicle three times in four hours

Enlarge / The Sun glints around the lower fin of Starship SN8 on Dec. 9, 2020. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann )

On Wednesday, in South Texas, SpaceX fired up its newest Starship prototype not once or twice. Rather, engineers and technicians fueled and test fired their SN9 prototype and its Raptor rocket engines three times in less than four hours.

After the first of three tests, SpaceX founder and chief engineer said on Twitter, “Today at SpaceX is about practicing Starship engine starts. Ship is held down by massive pins while engines are fired.” After the third test, Musk confirmed that all three tests were completed without a major issue.

Performing three tests like this in rapid succession is a notable achievement, and it points to maturing spaceship hardware, ground systems, and procedures for SpaceX’s Starship launch program. Musk said the goal is to reach a point where one could “hop in and go” to Mars. Such a capability remains years into the future, if it is ever realized. But the company appears to be making progress toward a robust launch system.

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