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SpaceX Shares Eye-Popping, Top-Down View of Fiery Starship Engine Test


Top-down view of SpaceX Starship single-engine static fire test shows the nose of Starship surrounded by fiery blaze and billows of smoke.
Starship 24 shows off what just one of its engines can do.
Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

I don't startle easily, but I felt my eyes widen when I clicked play on a short video shared by SpaceX on Twitter on Thursday showing its Starship spacecraft getting peppy. I've seen blazing static-fire engine tests before, but I hadn't seen one from this perspective, looking straight down from above.

The footage looks to have come from a drone stationed above SpaceX's Starship 24, a prototype of the big, shiny spacecraft the company hopes to send into orbit soon. A static fire test is what it sounds like: firing up an engine for testing without actually launching anything. The tests are often short in length and are designed to generate data on engine performance. 

Perhaps what caught me off guard was the sense that the spacecraft could launch right up at my face. I almost wanted to duck.

The next-gen Starship is inching toward a historic orbital test that will finally send it into space. We saw some scenic views of ship 24 back in October stacked on top of a Super Heavy booster on the pad at SpaceX's Starbase development and launch facility in Texas.   

The booster has already conducted some spectacular static fire tests, including a test that lit up seven engines and another recent test with 11. The top-down video of Starship shows just a single engine, but it was still plenty impressive.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk can be relied on to make optimistic predictions for when Starship might actually launch. He had hoped to get it off this rock before the end of 2022, but that would take a miracle. There's more testing to do and SpaceX will need full approval for the launch from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Successful static fire tests are a sign of moving forward. SpaceX has already sold seats on a future Starship mission around the moon, but it will need to get to orbit and back safely as a major first step to eventually carrying humans into space.