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SpaceX fires up 11 engines as it prepares massive rocket for orbital test

SpaceX's Booster 7 undergoes a static fire test with 11 engines on Tuesday in South Texas.

Enlarge / SpaceX’s Booster 7 undergoes a static fire test with 11 engines on Tuesday in South Texas. (credit: SpaceX)

On Tuesday, SpaceX test-fired its Super Heavy rocket for about 12 seconds, making it the longest duration firing of the massive booster so far. The test, which ignited 11 of the 33 Raptor rocket engines, came as SpaceX continues working toward an orbital launch attempt of this Super Heavy first stage and its Starship upper stage.

Earlier this month, SpaceX fired 14 Raptor engines on this booster for a few seconds, so Tuesday’s test did not set a new record regarding the number of engines tested. However, this “long duration” firing is the longest period of time that so many Raptor engines have been fired at once.

So what happens now? The path to orbit for SpaceX and its Starship launch system is unclear. Previously, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the next step was to fire a subset of Super Heavy’s engines for about 20 seconds to test autogenous pressurization. This method of pressurizing fuel tanks uses gases generated on board the rocket rather than a separately loaded, inert gas such as helium.

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