Monday, November 14, 2022

Starship Now Could Be the Most Powerful Rocket on Earth

This afternoon at 12:51 PM CST, Super Heavy Booster 7 (B7) fired 14 of it's 33 Raptor engines in the largest static fire test the company has done on a Starship, for 10 seconds.  We don't know what level of thrust the engines peaked at but it has been reported that Raptors are at full thrust by 1.0 seconds after ignition and max thrust is 510,000 pounds.  That means it could have achieved 7.14 million pounds of thrust.  That's just slightly below the Saturn V and the most power vehicle since the moon landings.  

All those "could" statements are a bit mealy-mouthed.  It probably already is the most powerful rocket currently flying because the Falcon Heavy is limited to just over 5 million pounds thrust and that's almost 30% less than the 7.14 we're talking about. 

Throughout the history of spaceflight, only three or four other rockets have produced as much or more thrust than Super Heavy Booster 7 (B7) could have theoretically produced on November 14th. But the Soviet Energia and N1 rockets and the US Saturn V and Space Shuttle were all retired one or several decades ago. Only SpaceX’s own Falcon Heavy rocket, fifth on the bracket and capable of producing up to 2325 tons (5.13 million pounds) of thrust at sea level, is still operational and comes close.

At the risk of overstating the obvious, 14 engines is less than half of the 33 engines Starship will launch on; 42.4% to be specific. That should be around 16.8 million pounds of thrust with the previous record for thrust at around 10 million pounds.  It's going to be quite the sight to see that fly.  Video of today's test here.

The test this morning means that Starship will have the title of most powerful rocket on Earth today until early Wednesday morning; if the Artemis/SLS mission launches in the morning's two hour launch window.  If NASA's mission doesn't get off on schedule, and the record so far doesn't inspire tons of confidence that it will, Starship will hold that title until either it does fly or until Starship completes its first orbital class launch.  When Starship flies its orbital mission, it will be more than 60% more powerful than the Soviet N1, the most powerful rocket that ever flew (although it never had a fully successful test flight).  SLS will be #3.  

The Artemis launch countdown has begun, Monday morning at 1:54 AM for launch Wednesday morning at 1:04 AM EST or 0604 UTC.

Since NASA depends on SLS for the moon landing along with SLS, both programs should be getting support from the agency as much as possible. 




  1. Not to be pedantic, Si, but the booster and Starship ain't a booster/starship until it flies. Until then, it's a poser.
    Don't get me wrong, I want to see it fly (along with SLS...), but the proof's in the pudding. The N1 was a Nice Try, but it never make the Kaman line. I don't see the necessity of labeling it The Most Powerful until it actually *does* something useful. Which it will.
    Until then, we all wait with baited breath. And the FH is simply badass.

    1. Well, only small pieces of the N1 made the Karman line... Mostly in a gaseous state, but does that count? :)

  2. I watched some of the video on Starship Pink and it was interesting seeing all the employees standing around watching. And the cameras futzing in and out due to the pressure waves.

    Can't wait to see it fly. Can't wait to see what other hurdles and stoppages the Feds throw on SpaceX in order to keep their precious SLS as 'the most powerful evah.'

  3. Point well taken, Igor. As much as I'd love to say we'll see it fly soon, it's half-past November this morning and all things considered, I'd be surprised if it flew before January.

    One of the rumors yesterday was that chunks of concrete were flying, meaning a whole lot of work needs to be done on the launch mount. I watched replays on both NASASpaceflight and Lab Padre's Rover 2, and on Rover 2 saw what looked like white flecks flying and something causing splashes in a puddle like big raindrops or maybe pebbles.

    The commentators on NASA Spaceflight said they used color changes of the paint on the OLM legs to determine where to put new shields to protect the legs.

    1. Musk deliberately did not put a flame diverter on Stage 0 so that they could work out the bugs for the OLM and be able to do engine swaps quickly and easily. Gonna have to put up with the sandblasting, unfortunately. Pebbleblasting?
      It makes BAART access simple and easy. - BAART, Big Arse Adjustable Raptor Table - not a: landing platform, blast shield, flame diverter, or permanent, but wicked handy for working on Raptors!)
      Remember, Boca Chica is a "prototyping" facility, NOT a site for repeated launches. Test, RUD, analyze, re-engineer, test...