SpaceX has taken a major step towards sending the Starship to orbit. On Thursday night, the private space corporation has conducted the SN20 Starship prototype's first static fire test as part of its preparation for the spacecraft's launch. According to Space, the SN20 is currently outfitted with two Raptor engines: A standard "sea-level" Raptor and a vacuum version designed to operate in space. At 8:16PM Eastern time on Thursday, the company fired the latter. SpaceX then revealed on Twitter that it was the first ever firing of a Raptor vacuum engine integrated onto a Starship.
First firing of a Raptor vacuum engine integrated onto a Starship pic.twitter.com/uCNAt8Kwzo— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 22, 2021
Around an hour after that, the SN20 lit up yet again in a second static fire test that may have involved both Raptor engines. The SN20 will eventually have six Raptors — three standard and three vacuum — and will be the first prototype to attempt an orbital launch. A Starship launch system is comprised of the Starship spacecraft itself and a massive first-stage booster called the Super Heavy. Both are designed to be reusable and to carry large payloads for trips to low and higher Earth orbits. It can also eventually be used for longer trips to the Moon and to Mars.
SpaceX doesn't have a date for the SN20 test flight yet, but the plan is to launch the vehicle with the Super Heavy known as Booster 4 from the company's Boca Chica site. The booster will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico, while the SN20 will continue its journey towards orbit.