SpaceX fueled the fully erect Starship for the first time on Monday (Jan. 23), marking a major milestone toward the vehicle’s first orbital flight.
Elon Musk’s company held a “wet dress rehearsal” on Monday at its Starbase facility in South Texas with the 395-foot-long (120 m) Starship, which will go through several procedures on launch day.
The to-do list included loading liquid oxygen and liquid methane propellants into the vehicle’s Super Heavy first stage and Starship upper stage, which SpaceX put together earlier this month on Starbase’s orbital launch mount. The action was captured by NASASpaceflight.com, which live-streamed the lengthy test. (opens in new tab)and Rocket Ranch Boca Chica (opens in new tab)The video of which is shown below (footage provided by Anthony Gomez of Rocket Ranch).
“Starship completed its first full flight-like wet dress rehearsal at Starbase today. This was the first time an integrated ship and booster were fully loaded with more than 10 million pounds of propellant,” SpaceX said via twitter (opens in new tab) on Monday evening.
“Today’s test will help verify a complete launch countdown sequence, as well as the performance of Starship and the orbital pad for flight-like operations,” the company said. one more tweet (opens in new tab),
video: SpaceX ignites multiple engines on Starship Super Heavy booster for first time
The success of Monday’s wet dress rehearsal keeps this Starship vehicle — which includes a super heavy prototype called Booster 7 and a Ship 24 upper-stage variant — on track for an orbital test flight in the near future.
That mission – which will send Ship 24 around Earth once with a targeted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii – could launch from Starbase as soon as next month, Musk has said.
However, in order to do this SpaceX still needs to check a few important boxes. For example, the company will de-stack Starship to test all 33 Raptor engines on Booster 7 at once. The most powerful such “static fire” test that SpaceX has conducted with the vehicle to date involved only 14 of its Raptors.
Ship 24 ignited all six of its Raptors last September.
SpaceX is developing Starship to carry people and cargo to the Moon, Mars and beyond. NASA selected the vehicle as the first crewed lunar lander for its Artemis program, and Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa booked a round-the-moon flight aboard the vehicle for himself and a handful of artists and influencers.
SpaceX is also counting on Starship to launch its larger, next-generation Starlink 2.0 internet satellites, and to carry out all of the company’s spaceflight duties at some point down the road.
Although Starship’s spaceflight future should be action-packed, the vehicle has been ground-bound for nearly two years now. The most recent Starship test flight is due in May 2021; It sent a three-engine upper-stage prototype called SN15 to a distance of about 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) into the skies above the starbase.
Several other upper stage Starship prototypes had made similar journeys, but SN15 was the first to land.
Mike Wall is the author of “out there (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaelwall (opens in new tab), Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab),