On Monday afternoon, SpaceX tested their Super Heavy Booster 3 on a launch pad near Boca Chica, Texas. With this, SpaceX is one step closer to launching the most powerful orbital launch vehicle the world has ever seen.
After the test, Elon Musk tweeted that BN3 was tested with three raptor engines. This is not the complete number of raptor engines the orbital flight will have. The booster used for the orbital flight, BN4, will have over 30 raptor engines. According to Nasa Space Flight, Elon Musk noted that they might test BN3 with 9 engines if progress on BN4 is slow. The 230 ft stainless steel booster will be a reusable and will aid Starship in flying to orbit.
Full test duration firing of 3 Raptors on Super Heavy Booster!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2021
For the test orbital flight, the Starship will launch from SpaceX’s launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas, the BN4 booster will detach from Starship and splash down near the Gulf of Mexico while Starship reaches orbit. After this, Starship will aim to land off the coast of Kauai and be recovered to be reused.
Although BN4 is already pre-stacked in the High Bay, the projected date for the orbital mission is not certain. Space News noted that Musk expects that the vehicle will be ready for the moon in 2024. SpaceX plans to use the BN4 booster for Yusaku Maezawa‘s Dear Moon project and NASA has prechosen SpaceX for their Artemis mission to land astronauts on the moon.
Excitement for SpaceX’s plans have really ramped up after Virgin Galactic successfully launched their space plane into orbit and at the time of writing this article, Blue Origin is hours away from embarking on their first orbital mission. I will be eagerly watching Blue Origin’s mission as it is a view into the next step in space exploration and for humanity.