SpaceX just pulled off an incredible stunt.
The company fired 31 of its gigantic Super Heavy booster's 33 rocket engines at once, producing a gargantuan amount of thrust — likely the most powerful rocket ignition in human history.
It's a massive step forward, setting the stage for SpaceX's long-awaited, inaugural orbital test launch of its Starship, a spacecraft that could potentially revolutionize space travel before the end of the decade.
"Team turned off 1 engine just before start & 1 stopped itself, so 31 engines fired overall," CEO Elon Musk tweeted. "But still enough engines to reach orbit!"
SpaceX just completed a major engine test-firing of its Super Heavy booster in Texas. Elon Musk says 31 of the 33 Raptor engines fired during the test.
"Still enough engines to reach orbit!" Musk tweeted.https://t.co/xg9ocqAnT4 pic.twitter.com/vFmv6rshRQ
— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) February 9, 2023
It was truly a sight to behold. Live streams of the event show a gigantic fireball emanating from under the rocket booster prototype, engulfing the entire region in smoke and forcing countless birds to clear the area at once.
The launch stand appears to be largely intact, but we'll likely hear more from SpaceX and Musk soon.
According to early back-of-the-envelope math by NASASpaceFlight's Stephen Clark, the test firing produced over 15 million pounds of thrust.
That means Super Heavy just produced "nearly double" the amount of thrust compared to NASA's retired Saturn V rocket and Space Launch System, according to Clark.
SpaceX still needs certification from the Federal Aviation Administration for its orbital launch attempt. But the company is already putting on one hell of a show.
More on Starship: Elon Musk Says SpaceX May Build Starship That Dies on Purpose