Two prototypes of SpaceX’s giant new rocket have just passed a key test.
SpaceX loaded with propellant in Booster 9 and Booster 10, two “Super Heavy” first stages of its huge new Spatialship deep space vehicle. Booster 9 was fueled on the orbital launch pad at the company’s Starbase site in South Texas, while the Booster 10 test performed at the nearby Massey’s testing facility.
“Recently Completed Propellant Charge Tests for Starship Super Heavy Boosters 9 and 10,” SpaceX said via X (formerly Twitter) today (July 25). This post also includes photos of the stainless steel thrusters, which are lined with frost from the super cold thrusters (liquid methane and liquid oxygen).
SpaceX did not say when these tests took place. But they were to happen in the last few days, at least for Booster 9; it has just been deployed on the orbital launch pad July 20.
The refueling tests are part of SpaceX’s campaign to prepare the two boosters for flight. And take-off could be coming relatively soon – for Booster 9, anyway. The vehicle is expected to perform Starship’s next test flight, which the SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said could take place as early as this summer.
This timeline may be ambitious, however, given the potential regulatory hurdles SpaceX may need to overcome. For example, a coalition of environmental groups is currently working sue the United States Federal Aviation Administrationwhich grants launch licenses, saying the agency failed to properly assess the damage Starship liftoffs could cause to the South Texas ecosystem and community.
Starship consists of the Super Heavy booster and a 165-foot-tall (50-meter) upper-stage spacecraft known – somewhat confusingly – as the Starship. Both are designed to be fully and quickly reusable, and both are powered by SpaceX’s powerful new Raptor engine. (SpaceX’s currently operational rockets, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, use a different engine, called Merlin.)
A fully stacked ship has flown only once, on a April 20 test flight from Starbase which involved the Booster 7 and Ship 24 prototypes.
The plan called for Ship 24 to make a partial circuit of Earth, ending up splashing down near Hawaii. But that didn’t happen; the two stages did not separate as expected, and SpaceX sent a self-destruct command, which resulted in the vehicle detonating approximately four minutes after liftoff.
The next test flight involving Booster 9 and Ship 25 will have similar objectives to the April 20 mission, Musk said.