SpaceX Successfully Tests All Six Starship Engines

SpaceX Successfully Tests All Six Starship Engines

SpaceX took another step forward in the development of its Starship system to take people and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond. Today’s static fire test of the Starship second stage with all six engines was successful according to SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

SpaceX’s two-stage Starship space transportation system stacked for the first time, August 6, 2021, Boca Chica, TX. The silver first stage is called Super Heavy, and the second stage, covered in black thermal protection tiles, is Starship, a name also used to refer to the two of them together. Credit: SpaceX

Starship is being built and tested at SpaceX’s Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, near Brownsville.

Starship is both the name of the entire system and of just the second stage, a combination rocket and crew/cargo compartment. Today’s test was of the second stage. The first stage, Super Heavy, also is in development at Starbase. In August SpaceX stacked the two together as a test as it moves closer to the first attempt to launch into orbit in coming months. The complete system is 395 feet (120 meters) tall with a 30-foot (9-meter) diameter.

The Starship second stage has six methane/liquid oxygen (methalox) Raptor engines. SpaceX’s five test flights to date, four of which ended in explosions, used only three.

Today’s test, with Starship Serial Number 20 (SN20), was the first time all six were fired at the same time.

Super Heavy will have 29 Raptors of its own. All of Starship, including the engines, is reusable.

Musk tweeted “Good static fire with all six engines!” SpaceX tweeted a photo of the brief event.


Musk conceived Starship as a transportation system to take millions of people to Mars, but it can go anywhere and land anywhere in the solar system.

SpaceX won a NASA contract in April to use it as the Human Landing System (HLS) for the Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon. The contract was in abeyance for seven months while competitors protested the award, a situation resolved only last week when a court ruled in NASA’s favor. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on Tuesday that the goal of getting people back on the Moon by 2024 is no longer possible in part because of that delay. The new goal is 2025, but that is tentative until NASA can sit down and talk with the SpaceX team about the progress they have been making in the interim using their own money.

Illustration of Starship on the surface of the Moon as a Human Landing System (HLS) for the Artemis program. Credit: SpaceX

One pacing item for the program is not technical, but regulatory. The FAA must approve the use of Starbase for orbital launches. An environmental assessment is being conducted right now. The FAA makes the point that “SpaceX cannot launch the Starship/Super Heavy vehicle until the FAA completes its licensing process, which includes the environmental review and other safety and financial responsibility requirements.”

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