Raptor fired at power level needed for Starship, Super Heavy
SpaceX’s first Raptor flight engine performed another test fire, this time increasing its force and chamber pressure to required levels for the company’s giant next-generation rocket.
Raptor was moved to a test stand at SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas, facility late last month and fired for the first time on the evening of Feb. 3, 2019. Now, less than a week later, company founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted that another test took place.
“Raptor just achieved power level needed for Starship [and] Super Heavy,” Musk tweeted just after 3 a.m. EST (08:00 GMT) Feb. 7.
Musk did not say how long the test was or if it was at full power. The Feb. 3 burn was only about two seconds and at about 60 percent power. However, he said the latter test reached a chamber pressure of 257 bar, or about 3,700 pounds per square inch, and an estimated force of about 172 metric tons with “warm propellant.”
The Starship and Super Heavy design requires at least 170 metric tons, Musk said, and added that with deep cryogenic propellant, another 10-20 percent performance could be achieved.
For comparison, each of the nine kerosene and liquid oxygen-consuming Merlin 1D engines used at the base of the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage produce about 86 metric tons of thrust.
Raptor is a full-flow staged combustion engine that consumes liquid methane and liquid oxygen. Three of these engines will be used to power the under-construction prototype Starship hopper at SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch site, which is also under construction. The hopper is expected to be used for low-altitude tests of the vehicle. It’s first “hops” could come later this year.
Once operational, the 207-foot (63-meter) Super Heavy rocket is expected to use 31 Raptor engines, while the 180-foot (55-meter) Starship upper stage/spaceship is designed for seven. The first orbital flight could occur in 2020, however, Musk has admitted that is a highly-ambitions target.
When it does get off the ground, the first version of the fully-reusable, now stainless steel rocket is planned to be able to send over 100 metric tons of payload into low-Earth orbit and be capable of on-orbit refueling, which could potentially allow for that same payload to be sent to the Moon, Mars or other deep-space destinations.
Its first major mission is currently anticipated to be the #dearMoon private lunar mission being funded by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. He and eight artists are hoping to fly around the Moon on a week-long trip as early as 2023.
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.