SpaceX’s first attempt to fire all 33 Starship engines at once ends with mixed results
SpaceX’s Mixed Results With Its First 33 Engine Fire
We have come to expect amazing things from Elon Musk and SpaceX, there’s no doubt. This time, however, they had a bit of a “fizzle” during their maiden $135 million Starship SN8 launch attempt.
The plan was to use all 33 Raptors to light up the sky and take Starship to the edge of space. So, fans around the world were ready, SpaceX was ready and so were the 33 Raptors. But sadly, dreams were dashed when only 3 of the rockets fired.
So, What Really Happened?
We may never know the answer to that. However, we can gleam some insight by looking at a few of the issues that were encountered leading up to launch.
For starters, the countdown was stopped just before it started due to a Raptor engine not being ready. Then the countdown was restarted and all 33 engines lit up. So far, so good, right? Unfortunately, a few seconds later, 4 of the engines shut down.
The theory is that the computers detected an imbalance in fuel levels and shut down the four engines to protect them. That’s not the most exciting outcome for SpaceX but it was much better than stopping all 33 at once.
The Upside of the Flop
Though it was definitely a disappointment, SpaceX did learn some valuable information from this launch:
- They discovered some possible pitfalls in the fuel balancing system. It’s not yet certain if this was the main cause of the four engines not firing but they will certainly be looking at it.
- They identified a problem with the Raptor engines. While they were validating the engines, it was discovered that they weren’t producing enough power. This could explain why some of the engines didn’t fire.
- SpaceX gained valuable data about the combustion chamber performance. As the engines were firing, the computer detected changes in pressure and temperature. This information will be used to improve the overall design of the Starship.
It’s not unusual for something to go wrong during a test but it’s never nice when it happens. Fortunately, SpaceX is a very resilient and resourceful organization and will continue to move forward as they strive for success.
So remember, a fizzling rocket may sound like a failure. But SpaceX is one step closer to achieving their dream of space exploration. And that’s something to be celebrated!