SpaceX's next-generation Starship rocket took a major step forward on August 6, when it conducted a successful static fire test. The test involved firing all 33 Raptor engines on the Booster 9 prototype, which is the first stage of the Starship rocket.
While four of the engines shut down prematurely, the test was still considered a success, as the remaining 29 engines performed flawlessly. The orbital launch mount also emerged from the test in one piece, which is a good sign for the upcoming flight test.
Starship is designed to transport people and cargo to the moon, Mars, and beyond. The first full-up flight test of the rocket took place on April 20, but it was unsuccessful. The rocket experienced several problems shortly after liftoff, and SpaceX was forced to destroy it.
The April 20 launch also caused considerable damage to Starbase's orbital launch mount and some surrounding infrastructure. To prevent this from happening again, SpaceX installed a water-deluge system beneath the mount. The system appeared to work well during the recent static fire test, as it dampened the tremendous energy generated by the Raptor engines.
The upcoming flight test will involve Booster 9 and an upper-stage prototype called Ship 25. It will have similar goals as the first liftoff, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.
However, it is unclear when that launch will take place. Technical issues are not the only hurdles SpaceX must clear. For example, a coalition of environmental and Indigenous groups is currently suing the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which granted a license for Starship launches from Starbase.
The suit claims that the agency did not properly assess the damage that such liftoffs could do to the South Texas ecosystem and requests that a more stringent environmental review be performed before any more Starships take flight from the site.
Despite these challenges, SpaceX is making steady progress with Starship. The recent static fire test was a major milestone, and the company is confident that it will be able to overcome the remaining hurdles and launch Starship to space in the near future.