Elon Musk’s SpaceX company has performed a key test on its huge new rocket system, Starship taking a step toward its first-ever orbital test flight, which could take place as soon as next month.
A Starship first-stage prototype known as Booster 7 ignited 31 of its 33 Raptor engines during a “static fire” test on Thursday at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in South Texas.
SpaceX views Starship as a potentially revolutionary transportation system, one that could make Mars colonization and other ambitious off-Earth feats economically feasible. The stainless-steel vehicle consists of two elements: A giant booster called Super Heavy and a 165-foot-tall (50 meters) upper-stage spacecraft known as Starship.
Both Starship and Super Heavy are designed to be fully reusable, and both are powered by SpaceX’s next-generation Raptor engine — 33 for the booster and six for the upper stage.
Elon Musk: Space X’s Starship will take us to Mars
After the successful test, Elon Musk tweeted: “One day, Starship will take us to Mars.”
One day, Starship will take us to Mars https://t.co/oMrnBIiBjY
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 9, 2023
Musk has high hopes for the vehicle. The entrepreneur wants to use it to send satellites and people into Earth orbit and beyond.
Nasa has already contracted SpaceX to develop a version that can play a role in its Artemis program, to once again land astronauts on the Moon.
Musk himself is focused on Mars. He’s long held the ambition to get to the Red Planet, to establish settlements and, as he puts it, to make humans “a multi-planet species”. He’s also talked about point-to-point travel, taking passengers from one side of the planet to the other in rapid time.
He said recently that his company SpaceX plans to send humans to Mars within the next ten years.
He added that success hinges on “engineering the vehicle,” noting that “Starship is the most complex and advanced rocket that’s ever been made.” Starship is the latest model of rocket manufactured by SpaceX.
“The fundamental optimization of Starship is minimizing the cost per ton to orbit — and ultimately cost per ton to orbit and ultimately cost per ton to the surface of Mars,” Musk explained.
He made it clear that the mission stands apart from everything humans have accomplished in space before, saying that “no amount of money can get you a ticket to Mars.”