In our last Starbase update, we reported that SpaceX is preparing the Starship SN20 prototype for the full-spectrum 6-engine static fire test. SpaceX finally performed this massive test on Starship 20 yesterday evening (Nov 12, 2021).
SN20 is the first-ever Starship prototype to go through a static fire test involving all 6 Raptor engines installed. These 6 engines are divided into two groups of sea-level and vacuum-level Raptors (RVac). 3 sea-level Raptors are installed on the inner ring and 3 vacuum Raptors are placed on the outer circle (see image below).
SpaceX officially posted a stunning photo of the moment when all 6 Raptor engines were firing in the Starship engine bay. As usual, the NASASpaceFlight.com cameras were present to capture the moment from different angles and with time-laps (video below).
These Raptor engines are most probably the first generation versions with a thrust of ~185 tons. The next-gen Raptor V2.0 engines will have a thrust of ~230 tons with an overall cost reduction per ton of thrust.
Raptor V2.0 is a major improvement in simplification, while also increasing thrust from ~185 tons to ~230 tons. Long-term goal is engine cost below $1000/ton of thrust.SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Twitter.
In the previous cryogenic test and the single-engine Raptor RVac static fire, several of the Starship thermal protection system (TPS) heat tiles fell off the spaceship prototype. In this full complement static fire test, it seems like the number of fallen tiles has significantly decreased.
By looking closely at the Starship SN20 after the completion of the test, only a few tiles seem to have fallen off.
SpaceX’s Starship program has come a long way now that the company thinks it’s for the first orbital flight test on SN20. The orbital flight test can happen as soon as this month if SpaceX received enough public support and votes to get the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval.
Otherwise, according to NASA documents, the first Starship orbital flight is expected to take place in March 2022.