An important part of the new SpaceX Starship has passed the first test. This is a version of the conventional Raptor engine for use in space vacuum. It successfully passed the first fire tests at the SpaceX site in McGregor, Texas, as reported by company representatives on Twitter.
The vacuum Raptor passed this test about three weeks after it left the SpaceX rocket factory in Los Angeles – on September 4, SpaceX announced that the new engine had been delivered to a Texas test site. In a tweet, the company described the firing tests as complete. It’s unclear how long the burn lasted: the tweet only includes a 15-second video that dims to black while the vacuum Raptor is still running.
Completed a full duration test fire of the Raptor Vacuum engine at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas pic.twitter.com/0GPSdSifnn
– SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 25, 2020
This variant of the Raptor is similar to the conventional version of the engine, but has a much larger nozzle, which improves efficiency in space environments. According to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, Starship will use three Raptor engines of each variant.
These six engines will power the Starship 50 meters high, delivering it over long distances, such as the Moon or Mars. The transport ship will be powerful enough to lift off the surface of these two celestial bodies, but it will need help to escape from the Earth’s gravity well. Therefore Starship will leave our planet on a giant rocket called the Super Heavy, which will be propelled by about 30 conventional versions of Raptor engines.
SpaceX said both Super Heavy and Starship can be fully and quickly reused. Musk suggests that the combination of a spacecraft and a super-heavy launch vehicle will reduce the cost of space travel so much that it will make ambitious plans like the colonization of Mars economically feasible.
SpaceX is working on the final version of Starship, rolling around a series of prototypes. Recently, single-engine SN5 and SN6 passed test “jumps” to an altitude of about 150 meters, and three-engine SN8 is preparing for its own flight to an altitude of 20 kilometers in the near future.
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