SpaceX fired its Starship Raptor vacuum engine twice in a single hour
You don’t need a space flight license to fire giant rockets.
Private aerospace juggernaut SpaceX is halfway through a slow clearance process with the Federal Aviation Administration to determine whether Elon Musk’s company will be allowed to launch his spacecraft into orbit from its facilities. Boca Chica, Texas. But that doesn’t mean he can’t keep moving forward.
SpaceX on Thursday released a video of its Raptor vacuum engine fitted with a prototype spacecraft, in what became the first integrated test shot of the space-worthy propulsion system, according to a company tweet.
In other words, we haven’t seen Musk’s last burgeoning space empire.
SpaceX’s spacecraft performed two Raptor vacuum tests, back to back
Starship is SpaceX’s main prototype spacecraft, designed to someday take humans to the moon, and eventually to Mars. The Raptor Vacuum, also known as RVac, is essentially a rocket motor designed specifically for maneuvering in space, as a modification of the conventional Raptor motors that will lift the Super Heavy booster and the Starship stacked above, beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Vacuum engines have extra-large nozzles and can operate more efficiently in the extremely harsh environment of space, which is very different from Raptor naturally aspirated engines. When ready, Starship is slated for three RVacs, in addition to three additional conventional Raptor engines, for missions that will take it to the far reaches of the solar system.
The first static RVac engine fire occurred at the end of a seven-hour test window, according to a Teslarati report. This is when the Starship S20 fired its engines, but only for what is called a “pre-burn test”, where only the first half of a static fire test has. place, shutting off before full ignition starts. But on October 21, at around 8:16 p.m. EDT, the first full static test started. A little over an hour later, the Raptor vacuum performed a second test shot, but this time it fired both the RVac and Raptor Center (conventional rocket) engines. This represented two firsts: the first time both types of rockets were fired at the same time, and the first time that two static test shots were fired in such a short time.
First shot of a Raptor vacuum engine integrated into a spaceship pic.twitter.com/uCNAt8Kwzo
– SpaceX (@SpaceX) 22 October 2021
FAA assessment set to end on November 1
In other words, things are progressing for SpaceX, but it still has a lot to do before it can put a prototype of Starship into orbit. Musk’s Aerospace Company has performed several successful test flights, and a few resulted in incredible explosions, the first of which flew up to about 6 miles (10 km). As SpaceX quickly prepares for its next prototype spacecraft flight, the FAA is allowing members of the public to comment on a draft of its EA.
This is a necessary step under the National Environmental Policy Act, and if all goes well, the agency will authorize the license to launch SpaceX. Then there is nothing between the spacecraft and the space flights except the atmosphere. The FAA’s review period is expected to end on November 1, which means we should see the decision released by the agency early next month. But if it asks for a full environmental impact statement, SpaceX may have to settle for more test shots, instead of actual launches of the prototype spacecraft.