SpaceX successfully ‘crippled’ the nose-based propellant tank of the first fully integrated Starship prototype and used the same tank to fire at a Raptor engine, passing one of the last major tests before the 15-kilometer (9.5-mile) launch of the rotor.
On November 4, after a few lies, StarShip Serial 8 (SN8) began testing the first phase after being the first prototype to install the nose section permanently. On Wednesday evening, SpaceX, through a possible partial cryogenic proof test, clearly focused the rocket on SN8’s new Naxon and a small secondary propellant tank at its tip. Designed to act as a secondary reservoir for landing relatively few propellant starships, the SN8’s two header tanks were probably loaded with cryogenic liquid nitrogen – a safe, non-reactive stand-in for liquid oxygen and methane.
SpaceX was ready to load, handle, and offload dozens of tons of cryogenic liquids while navigating the newly-installed liquid oxygen header tank and related plumbing 40-meter long (~ 130 feet) vertical pipe of Starship SN8. Move to the next step: a wet dress rehearsal (WDR) and a rapper static fire.
SpaceX has technically completed eight successful raptor static fires in four separate prototypes, including the first three-raptor static fires via Starship SN8, with the company ever attempting static fires just to draw propellants from header (landing) tanks. Starships need to reliably revive their raptor engines in flight and be able to hold cryogenic landing propellant liquids for hours, days, weeks and months, but all small header tanks make it easy to keep propellants under extreme pressure and in the right place.
After several days of test windows came and went and on November 9th, after continuing a sort of attempt, Starship SN8 finally ignited one of its three raptor engines, transmitting liquid methane and oxygen to the engine in two separate header tanks. Oddly enough, after a day or two of startup and ignition, the raptor’s normal exhaust plume bursts into shiny firework-like debris. After a relatively normal five seconds, the raptor disintegrated, although the engine was partially on fire for another ten or ten seconds – which was also somewhat unusual.
Finally, the observed oblivion may be as rare as accidental debris left in the vicinity of the Raptor’s plume, or perhaps less likely to erode. There was also a possibility that it was a piece of the complex turbopump or preburners of the raptor, although it was not so unlikely that the engine would continue to run (as it did) if it lost so much internal hardware.
(Update: Thanks, Nassasflight.com reporter Michael Baylor says a cloud of debris was spotted on November 10 “Not one [Raptor performance] Anxiety, ”he said. Pad debris created a potential source.)
SpaceX canceled another Static Fire window on Thursday, November 11, leaving the next opportunity for a second (three) expected static fire between 9am and 9pm CST (UTC-5).
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