SpaceX has fired Starship’s Raptor engine and the vehicle still stands

Enlarge / A view into the maw of SN4, showing a single Raptor engine mounted inside. (credit: SpaceX)

For the first-time, a full-scale prototype of SpaceX’s Starship vehicle lit its engine on Tuesday evening. After ignition, it appeared that the Raptor rocket engine burned for about 4 seconds. At the end of this test at the South Texas Launch Site, the vehicle still stood.

Tuesday night’s test, which took place at 8:57pm CT local time in Texas (01:57 UTC Wednesday), occurred eight days after a successful pressurization test of this Starship prototype, known as SN4. Engineers will now review the data before possibly performing another static fire test, or a small hop. Ultimately, if this vehicle survives additional testing, it may make a 150-meter hop above the scrubby Texas lowlands.

This test also took place less than a week after NASA awarded SpaceX a $135 million contract to develop Starship as a Lunar Lander—a vehicle for carrying cargo and crew from lunar orbit down to the surface, and back. Although Starship is the most ambitious of three landers NASA is considering as part of its Artemis Program, it is also the only one actively testing full-scale prototypes.

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