Fri. Mar 24th, 2023
SpaceX has shipped its Mars engine to Texas for testing


SpaceX seems to have taken a major step forward with the development of a key component of its Mars mission architecture. According to multiple reportsSpeaking at the Small Satellite Conference Tuesday in Logan, Utah, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said the company has shipped a Raptor engine to its test site in McGregor, Texas. A spokesperson confirmed to Ars that the engine has indeed been moved to Texas for development testing.

The Raptor is SpaceX’s next generation of rocket engines. It could be as much as three times more powerful than the Merlin engines powering the Falcon 9 rocket and will also be used in the Falcon Heavy rocket that could fly in late 2016 or early 2017. The Raptor will power SpaceX’s next generation of rockets after the Falcon Heavy, the so-called Mars Colonial Transporter.

While official details about the Raptor engine remain scarce, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has suggested that the engine will have a thrust of about 500,000 pounds, about the same power as a space shuttle’s main engines. While the shuttle was powered by three main engines and two boosters, it is believed that the large rocket SpaceX is using to colonize Mars will likely be powered by a cluster of many Raptor engines.

Musk has repeatedly suggested that he created SpaceX to start a human colony on Mars starting with crewed missions in the 2020s. This year, however, the company is starting to make some tangible progress toward that goal. In April, the company announced plans to launch an unmanned Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018, and it has demonstrated the supersonic retro-propulsion technology needed to land there. In addition, Musk has said he will reveal more details about how SpaceX will colonize Mars at this year’s International Astronautical Conference, which will be held Sept. 26-30 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

While the company has few details so far, the fact that SpaceX is developing hardware such as the Raptor engine for a Mars mission architecture lends additional validity to Musk’s claims. Aerospace engineers often say that the foundation of any spaceflight development program is the rocket engines, which typically take five to seven years to develop under optimistic timelines. Full-scale engine testing – if indeed that’s what this represents – usually comes towards the end of that cycle.

By akfire1

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