SpaceX prepares to fire test all 33 Starship engines at once
Spacecraft prototype 24 stacked on top of the Super Heavy 7 booster prototype at the company’s facility near Brownsville, Texas on January 9, 2023.
WASHINGTON — SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said Wednesday that the company plans to hit a major spacecraft milestone this week.
SpaceX will attempt a “static fire” on Thursday, simultaneously testing all 33 engines that sit at the base of Starship’s rocket booster. The company test-fired 14 of these engines in November as it strives to attempt an orbital launch with a prototype spacecraft.
“Tomorrow is a big day for SpaceX,” Shotwell said at the FAA’s annual commercial space transportation conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.
Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX
Starship is a rocket nearly 400 feet tall, designed to transport goods and people beyond Earth. It’s also key to NASA’s plan to return astronauts to the moon, with SpaceX winning a nearly $3 billion contract from the agency in 2021.
Last month, the company completed a “wetsuit rehearsal,” with Starship Prototype 24 stacked on Super Heavy Booster Prototype 7, in the most recent crucial test.
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While SpaceX had hoped to complete Starship’s first orbital launch as early as summer 2021, progress delays and regulatory approval have pushed that schedule back. Speaking to reporters at the conference, Shotwell said Wednesday there were “no big issues” causing the delays.
“There are a lot of little things to do, mostly because we weren’t really focusing on the orbital ship — we were focusing on the production systems that will build the ship. We know how to get to orbit,” Shotwell said. .
While the company has ramped up the pace of its Falcon series of rockets to launch every four days, Shotwell noted that these existing rockets cannot be produced at a daily rate.
“Why can’t we build a rocket every day? That’s what we focus on with Starship, attacking every part of the production process to be able to build a lot of these machines,” Shotwell said.
SpaceX has already signed deals to fly crews on Starship, including three private flights booked by high net worth individuals to get to space and the moon. But Shotwell reiterated a previous caveat from CEO Elon Musk, noting that Starship needs to be launched on “hundreds of flights before it gets people flying.”
Asked about SpaceX’s plans to take its Starlink business public, Shotwell said Wednesday there was “no update.” Last year, CNBC reported that CEO Elon Musk told employees the company likely won’t go public with Starlink until 2025 or later.