It’s starting to look like SpaceX will try to do the 15 km (9.3 mi) jump test before Christmas! After two successful 150 m (~ 500 feet) jumps with the SN5 and SN6 prototypes, engineers at SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch facility in southern Texas launched the SN8 – the first Starship prototype to have three Raptor engines. But before the SN8 could carry out a test flight at high altitude, engineers needed to do a static fire test.
This test is crucial to ensure that the Starshipthe internal plumbing can handle its cryogenic propellants and is the last milestone before the Starship can perform a high altitude flight. On the night of Tuesday, October 20º, that’s exactly what they did! At 3:13 am local time (1:13 am PDT; 4:13 am EDT), the SN8 started its three Raptor engines and continued to run them for several seconds in a row.
Although SpaceX has not yet released a statement about the test, images captured near the NASA Spaceflight launch facility by Mary McConnaughey (aka. @BocaChicaGal) would suggest that it was a success. The video of the event (posted below) shows the engine starting at 2h27m12s after several minutes of ventilation and remaining on for several seconds.
With this milestone reached, the company seems ready to conduct the historic 15 km (9.3 mi) hop test. At this point, this seems likely to happen before the end of October or the beginning of November. While the SN8 received its three Raptor engines and prepared to test them, another team was busy assembling the nose cone in another part of the facility.
Since Starhopper test vehicle was in active service has a Starship prototype comes with a nose cone. However, this segment was removed shortly after the Starhopper it blew with strong winds in January 2019. What remained, the lower section of the single engine, started to perform a tied jump test, followed by a first free flight jump test at 20 meters (~ 65 feet).
In August 2019, these tests culminated in a 150 meter (~ 500 ft) jump test, a feat that would not be performed again until a year later with the SN5 and SN7 prototype. Since then, the development of the SN8 has progressed rapidly, starting with the core undergoing a series of proof tests (from October 6º on October 8thº) to validate your stainless steel propellant tanks in preparation for your static fire test.
What followed was the addition of large maneuver flaps to the central section and the nose cone. The nose cone was then attached by crane to the SN8 fuselage on Thursday (22 Octoberna), an event that was witnessed by several observers who took photos and filmed. Above is a time-lapse video of the stacking operation recorded by @LabPadre, which was done using his 24-hour live coverage of the Boca Chica launch facility.
With the nose cone and flaps installed, the vehicle now looks like the finished one Starship design for the first time. With its three engines, nose cone and integrated maneuver flaps, the SN8 is about to try its 15 km (9.3 mi) jump test, which will include a “belly down” maneuver that will test its ability to slide back to your landing site using only your maneuvering surfaces.
According to previous Musk statements, SpaceX expects to perform a suborbital jump test at an altitude of 200 km (~ 125 mi) next year. For this final test, the Starship it will be equipped with six Raptor engines – three optimized for thrust at sea level and three optimized for space vacuum. The company is also busy working on Super heavy element of the launch system, which will have no less than 28 Raptor engines.
Additional reading: ArsTechnica