SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has confirmed that Starship and Raptor’s first triple-engine static fire was a success, opening the door for nosecone installation.
Around 3:13 am CDT, October 20th, Starship serial number 8 (SN8) successfully fired up three Raptor engines less than two hours after completing the first successful three-engine preburner test. With zero direct human intervention, SpaceX remotely detanked the rocket’s cryogenic liquid methane and oxygen propellant – the remnants now too warm to be used again in a controlled manner. In an hour or less, SpaceX engineers combed through the data produced and concluded that all three Raptor engines were healthy after their partial ignition test.
Effectively reset to a stable state, SpaceX once again proceeded to load Starship SN8’s propellant tanks with a small amount of supercooled LOx and LCH4, almost exactly mirroring the preburner test. Around 50 minutes after the recycle commenced and 25 minutes after propellant loading kicked off, Starship SN8 ignited three Raptors simultaneously – a major milestone for any rocket engine. Static fire now completed, Starship SN8 has been cleared to become the first operational prototype to reach its full 50m (~165 ft) height.
Shortly before Musk confirmed SN8’s static fire success, SpaceX canceled a preexisting October 20th static fire window and scheduled several new road closures on Wednesday, October 21st. Unlike the company’s recent static fire closures, all but one of which ran from 9pm to 6am, SpaceX’s new Wednesday closures are scheduled from 7am to noon and 3pm to 5pm local (CDT).
While a minor data point, in context with Starship SN8’s static fire success, the closures alone made it clear that SpaceX planned to begin installing Starship SN8’s nosecone on October 21st. Musk confirmed that assumption a few hours after those road closures were published.
It’s not entirely clear but most observers are assuming that Wednesday’s 7am-12pm window is needed to transport a large, new crane the ~2 miles between SpaceX’s Boca Chica factory and launch facilities. Starship SN8’s stacked nose section would then likely be installed on the same self-propelled mobile transporters (SPMT) and rolled to the launch pad from 3pm to 5pm, after which the nose would be lifted and stacked atop Starship SN8.
SpaceX has only fully stacked a Starship prototype…