SpaceX has posted a dramatic video of the first firing of its Raptor vacuum engine integrated onto a Starship prototype.
Starship is a reusable launch system being developed by Elon Musk’s company to carry people and cargo to the moon, Mars, and beyond.
The firing test of the Raptor vacuum engine took place on Thursday night at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, in southern Texas.
The 165-foot-tall SN20 Starship prototype that was involved in Thursday’s firing test currently features two Raptor engines.
One of these is a standard Raptor engine designed to lift off from Earth, while the other is Raptor “vacuum” variant, which is optimized to operate in space.
The brief “static fire” test occurred at 8:16 p.m. EDT on Thursday and it appears that only the single Raptor vacuum engine was involved, NASASpaceflight.com reported.
In the video posted to Twitter, the rocket engine can be seen briefly firing, lighting up the launch pad in the fading evening light.
The company conducted a second static fire test later on Thursday evening at 9:18 p.m. EDT, which appeared to involve both of the Raptor engines, NASASpaceflight.com reported.
The in-development “Starship” launch system consists of a lower booster stage known as “Super Heavy” and an upper stage simply called “Starship,” which doubles as a long-duration mission spacecraft.
Elon Musk’s company uses the term “Starship” to refer to the lower and upper stage collectively.
The company said Starship, which is fully reusable, will be the most powerful launch vehicle ever developed, capable of transporting more than 100 metric tonnes into space.
The entire launch system, including both the lower and upper stages, will measure around 394 feet in height.
According to SpaceX, Starship has the capability to transport satellites, payloads, crew and cargo to “a variety of orbits and Earth, lunar or Martian landing sites.”
“Fully-reusable Starship and Super Heavy systems are expected to allow for space-based activities that have not been possible since the retirement of the Space Shuttle and Space Transportation System or have never been possible before,” the company said in a fact sheet.
In fact, NASA has chosen Starship as its first crewed lunar landing system for the Artemis moon program.
In its final configuration, the first stage will feature 29 Raptor engines, while the upper stage will be equipped with six—three standard ones and three vacuum variants.
The SN20 Starship prototype will be involved in an orbital test flight at some point in the next few months—in what will be a first in the development of the launch system.