Wed. Mar 22nd, 2023

SpaceX founder Elon Musk continued to post tidbits about his “Interplanetary Transport System” on Twitter early Monday morning, sharing two photos of SpaceX’s Raptor engine during a test fire at the company’s plant in MacGregor, Texas. “SpaceX propulsion has just achieved the first firing of the Raptor interplanetary transport engine,” he tweeted.

Musk released the photos ahead of a highly anticipated speech Tuesday at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. During his speech, Musk will lay out the elements of his vision for humanity to colonize other worlds. As Ars has reported, Musk will likely send a sweeping message by reaching out to potential partners. This is because SpaceX cannot fund the colonization itself and needs help from the government and industry.

In subsequent tweets early Monday, Musk provided a few details about the Raptor engine, which he says has a thrust of about 3 million newtons in the upper atmosphere. This is about three times more powerful than the company’s existing engine, the Merlin 1-D, nine of which power SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Additionally, with these specs, the Raptor would be slightly more powerful than a space shuttle’s main engine and would be in the same class as Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine, which has not yet undergone full testing.

An undetermined number of Raptor engines will power SpaceX’s next-generation rocket, the BFR. Musk is expected to provide additional technical details on Tuesday about the engine, this larger, more powerful rocket, and the Interplanetary Transport System spacecraft. Such elements form the basic architecture for how SpaceX plans to send hundreds of colonists to Mars in the 2020s.

The big question was how much of this is drawing board hardware and how much was actually built. When SpaceX shipped the Raptor engine to Texas earlier this summer, it was an important moment for the company, because an engine is the most important part of a rocket and typically takes the longest time to develop and test. If the full-size Raptor engine can be fired, SpaceX will begin delivering hardware needed to achieve interplanetary flight. Now it just needs some financial help to make this vision a reality.

Frame image by SpaceX

By akfire1

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