HUGE NEWS!! SpaceX First Super Heavy Booster Test Static Fire Today.
Elon Musk last week mentioned that the static fire would occur probably today, July 19th. Road closures are scheduled for the roads surrounding SpaceX’s starbase facility for Monday between 12 pm and 10 pm. While backup dates for testing are also in place for Tuesday and Wednesday.
But I believe 80 % of it will be tested in the next couple of hours. Until now, Booster 3 has yet to perform any kind of test involving the combustible, explosive liquid oxygen and methane propellant needed to fuel Raptor engines.
By all appearances, SpaceX aims to roll Super Heavy’s first wet dress rehearsal (WDR; like a ‘cryo proof’ with real propellant) and static fire into one busy day of testing. That combined WDR and static fire will likely be the first time ever that a launch vehicle as large as Super Heavy has attempted to pressurize its tanks autogenously, referring to the process of using a rocket’s own fuel and oxidizer to generate ullage gas.
Starship prototypes notoriously struggled with their smaller autogenous pressurization systems – and jerry-rigged alternatives – on several occasions. In other words, even an ignition-free wet dress rehearsal test completed with autogenous pressurization would be a major success and hurdle surmounted for Super Heavy. If SpaceX manages to perform the first booster WDR and static fire on the same day, it would indicate that the company has extreme confidence in Super Heavy.
SpaceX outfitted the rocket with three Raptors. They might use an odd triangular configuration on the booster’s central nine-engine ‘thrust puck.’ Why that particular configuration was chosen instead of something more symmetric is unclear but it does decrease the odds of a multi-engine test on Super Heavy’s first static fire without a clear reason to assume that testing such an odd engine placement would provide some valuable insight. In comparison, two engines on opposite sides of Super Heavy’s inner ‘ring’ or three engines forming a line across that ring are two configurations that boosters are very likely to use during landing burns.
Regardless SpaceX may start Super Heavy B3’s static fire test campaign with just one engine, so it’s not impossible that the current configuration is just a part of the incomplete process of installing five or more engines.
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