Science

SpaceX’s starship SN8 fires engines for the third time, encounters issue

PHOTO CREDITS: BUSINESS INSIDER

According to Space.com, SpaceX performed its third static fire for its latest Starship prototype on November 12, but the test did not go as planned.

The Starship SN8 (Serial No. 8) vehicle performed its third brief “static fire,” a test in which the engines are ignited while the rocket remains tethered to the ground, at SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch site in South Texas.

Shortly after the test, which many organizations were broadcasting live, some material could be seen dripping from the Starships base. The CEO and founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, confirmed something off-nominal had occurred. “We lost vehicle pneumatics. Reason unknown at present. Liquid oxygen header tank pressure is rising. Hopefully it triggers a burst disk to relieve pressure, otherwise it’s going to pop the cork,” said Musk in a Twitter statement later on that night.

Burst disks are single-use devices that, like valves, seal off different sections or systems of a vehicle. They relieve pressure when they open, as Musk noted.

The cause of the problem is unknown at the moment, Musk said in another tweet. “Maybe melted an engine preburner or fuel hot gas manifold. Whatever it is caused pneumatics loss. We need to design out this problem.” The burst disk in question did its job, however, seen in the SN8 still being in one piece.

The Starship system consists of a 165-foot-tall vehicle called Starship and a huge 223-foot rocket known as the Super Heavy, both of which will be fully and rapidly reusable. The final Starship craft will have six Raptor engines, and the Superheavy would be powered by up to 28 of the engines.

SN8’s static fires, the first two occurred on Oct. 20 and Nov. 10, are intended to pave the way for a 9-mile-high test flight in the near future. That would be far higher than any of its predecessors have gone. The Starhopper craft and the SN5 and SN6 prototypes reached maximum altitudes of about 500 feet during their flights, which occurred in the summer of 2019 and this past August and September.

ARTICLE: JOSEPH MODICA

SCIENCE/HEALTH EDITOR: KYLE SMITH

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