SpaceX has successfully conducted a three-engine “static fire” test on the third iteration of its Super Heavy booster, one of the key components behind its ambitions for interplanetary travel.
The test, which was carried out on the night of Monday July 19 at the company’s Starbase launch site near Boca Chica in southern Texas, saw SpaceX fire up a trio of Raptor engines on its Super Heavy booster for the first time.
It was a timely breakthrough for Elon Musk, who has watched on as his space flight rivals Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have seized the limelight in recent weeks.
“Full test duration firing of 3 Raptors on Super Heavy Booster!” Musk wrote on Twitter after the ground test.
In a response to a fan, he raised the possibility of conducting further tests on Booster 3, before SpaceX focuses the bulk of its energies on the fourth iteration of Super Heavy, which is set to launch a Starship SN20 prototype craft into orbit for the first time later this summer.
“Depending on progress with Booster 4, we might try a 9 engine firing on Booster 3,” Musk wrote.
Super Heavy is eventually expected to use between 29 and 32 Raptor engines as standard when it is completed.
The booster measures 230 feet in height and 30 feet in diameter, and will be used to launch SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft, a fully reusable transport system for interplanetary travel into orbit and eventually to Mars, which is Musk’s grand target.
Measuring 160 feet in height and 30 feet in diameter, the spacecraft is almost as large as the booster carrying it, and it will contain both passengers and cargo.
“Starship is the fully reusable spacecraft and second stage of the Starship system,” SpaceX says.
“It offers an integrated payload section and is capable of carrying passengers and cargo to Earth orbit, planetary destinations, and between destinations on Earth.”
Both Starship and Super Heavy are intended to be reusable.
Musk’s company is currently locked in a space race with Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Bezos’ Blue Origin, both of which are beginning to garner a level of interest that had previously been largely dominated by SpaceX.
On July 11, Branson hit a major milestone by becoming the first of the multi-billionaire trio to fly into space on his own rocket.
However, Bezos’ Blue Origin has suggested that the 53.5-mile altitude that the Virgin Galactic flight reached doesn’t technically constitute space.
On Tuesday, Bezos will fly into space aboard a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket ship.