SpaceX Test-Fires Impressive Super Heavy Rocket Booster For Next Starship Launch

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SpaceX successfully test-fired its Super Heavy booster ahead of Elon Musk's space company's next Starship launch. The booster, designated as Booster 9, was static-fired at SpaceX's Starbase test site in Boca Chica, Texas.

Starship met a dreadful fate on its inaugural test launch on April 20, 2023, as the spacecraft had to self-destruct minutes into flight. Following that test launch, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that an "anomaly" had occurred during the ascent and prior to stage separation which resulted in the loss of the spacecraft. Now, SpaceX has successfully tested its Booster 9 ahead of the second test launch of its mammoth Starship spacecraft.

Musk's space company reported in a tweet that all 33 engines successfully ignited, even though two shut down prematurely. The tweet added, "Congratulations to the SpaceX team on this exciting milestone!"

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It is not known whether the test fire was sufficient enough to satisfy the company that Booster 9 is ready for a second test launch, however. Even if the company is satisfied, it will still need to receive FAA approval for the launch, due to it having modifications from its original Starship/Super Heavy launch license. The FAA must decide whether SpaceX has made all the necessary changes following the first attempt before approving a revised license. It could take several weeks before the FAA makes a decision.

One of the major changes that has been made to the booster is the addition of an inter-stage ring on top with vents. Musk stated in June that this was added to accommodate a "hot-staging" approach where the engines of Starship's upper stage are ignited while still attached to the Super Heavy booster. By doing so, Musk reported that the vehicle's performance improved by as much as 10 percent.

With "well over a thousand" other changes, Musk said he was more confident that the next attempted launch of Starship will be successful. He concluded, "I think the probability of this next flight working, getting to orbit, is much higher than the last one. Maybe it's like 60%."

Top Image Credit: SpaceX