Space

SpaceX's Mars Raptor engine claims rocketry record on path to lift-off levels of power

SpaceX's Mars Raptor engine cl...
SpaceX's Raptor engine has now achieved lift-off levels of power in testing
SpaceX's Raptor engine has now achieved lift-off levels of power in testing
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SpaceX's Raptor engine under development
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SpaceX's Raptor engine under development
SpaceX's Raptor engine is swung into place for test-firing
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SpaceX's Raptor engine is swung into place for test-firing
Graph detailing the chamber pressures achieved by SpaceX's Raptor engine
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Graph detailing the chamber pressures achieved by SpaceX's Raptor engine
SpaceX hopes its Starship vehicle will one day carry passengers into deep space
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SpaceX hopes its Starship vehicle will one day carry passengers into deep space
SpaceX hopes its Starship vehicle will one day carry passengers into deep space
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SpaceX hopes its Starship vehicle will one day carry passengers into deep space
Earlier test-firing of SpaceX Raptor engine
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Earlier test-firing of SpaceX Raptor engine
SpaceX Starship vehicle under development in Texas
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SpaceX Starship vehicle under development in Texas
SpaceX's Raptor engine has now achieved lift-off levels of power in testing
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SpaceX's Raptor engine has now achieved lift-off levels of power in testing
SpaceX's Starship prototype stands tall in Texas
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SpaceX's Starship prototype stands tall in Texas

How does one lift 100 metric tons of spacefaring gear into low-Earth orbit and onward to Mars? For SpaceX and its ambitious CEO, that means strapping 31 advanced boosters to the bottom of a retro-styled rocket and shooting for the stars. Test-firing of this engine has now reached lift-off levels of power, with the company breaking a long-held rocketry record while it was at it.

SpaceX's vision for Mars hinges on a spacecraft and rocket combination known as the Starship and Super Heavy, respectively. This two-stage vehicle is hoped to one day succeed the company's Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon as its primary vehicles and carry its exploratory ambitions into deep space.

But there is plenty of testing, validation and likely refinements to take place before then. The Raptor engine that will power the Starship and Super Heavy was fired up last week for the first time, and things appear to be going swimmingly as engineers gradually ramp things up.

"Raptor just achieved power level needed for Starship & Super Heavy," tweeted SpaceX CEO Elon Musk following the milestone test-firing.

Earlier test-firing of SpaceX Raptor engine
Earlier test-firing of SpaceX Raptor engine

Musk went on to explain that the design of the Starship and Super Heavy calls for at least 170 metric tons of force per booster. In this particular test-firing, the Raptor engine hit 172 metric tons along with a chamber pressure of 257 bar using a warm propellant. He anticipates this should reach around 300 bar using deep cryogenic fuel instead.

Overnight, continued test-firing of the Raptor engine saw it reach 268.9 bar, surpassing the chamber pressure record set by the Russian-built RD-180, which today powers the Atlas V rockets for United Launch Alliance.

"It's amazing that the RD-170 & RD-180 engines held the record for so many decades," said Musk. "Excellent engineering."

SpaceX's Starship prototype stands tall in Texas
SpaceX's Starship prototype stands tall in Texas

Having recently finished a prototype for the Starship vehicle at its facility in Texas, SpaceX hopes to conduct the first grasshoppers tests for the program in the coming months. Though that prototype only features three Raptor engines, the final design calls for seven, while the Super Heavy booster will feature a total of 31.

Source: Twitter (Elon Musk)

4 comments
Bill Kurtz
The Starship "prototype is clearly only a full-scale model, not an actual prototype. It's more of a sign than a rocket. I'm not sure what the point of it is. Maybe to demonstrate its impressive size? Perhaps there will be apartments available in this thing. Love you SpaceX, keep us guessing...
Martin Winlow
Yes, perhaps a 'gate-guardian'... but Mr Musk has intimated that it will be used for basic rocket testing, at least...
jerryd
Let's not forget Musk wants to fly these from say NYC to Tokyo with passengers in an hour. I've always thought that might be more economical than the day long aircraft rides.
EZ
Is Musk going don the costume of Flash Gordon when it's blast off time?