SpaceX test fires Starship's Raptor engine for deep space burns
SpaceX has notched up another milestone in the development of Starship, fixing its Raptor Vacuum engine to the spacecraft and test-firing it for the first time. This marks another important step in the company's ongoing efforts to reach Mars, with this larger engine variant to perform the important role of propelling the massive vehicle once it reaches outer space.
Starship is SpaceX's next-generation vehicle designed to transport people and cargo to the Moon and Mars, and back in May the company successfully flew it to high-altitude and landed it for the first time. The Raptor engines that propelled this test flight are what are known as sea level variants, which feature smaller nozzles designed to safely eject the exhaust gas at the atmospheric pressures found at sea level, while generating thrust to lift the rocket off the ground.
Because there is negligible atmospheric pressure in the vacuum of space, the engine nozzles that perform this role can be much larger, and in turn generate far more thrust. Starship's upper stage will carry three sea level Raptor engines, along with three vacuum Raptor engines with much bigger nozzles, which SpaceX began testing last year.
The tests that took place over the weekend saw one of these vacuum Raptor engines integrated into the Starship and successfully test-fired for the first time.
The final iteration of Starship's lower stage, meanwhile, the Super Heavy rocket, will use close to 30 Raptor engines to lift 100 metric tonnes to Earth orbit, making it the most powerful launch vehicle ever developed. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said over weekend that the first orbital launch for the next-gen spacecraft could take place as early as November, if the company can gain the necessary approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration.
If all goes well, Starship will be ready for its first orbital launch attempt next month, pending regulatory approval— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 22, 2021
Source: Twitter (SpaceX)