Elon Musk and the crew of SpaceX are hard at work at their Boca Chica, Texas, facility, and excitement is already growing over upcoming tests of the company’s Starship Raptor engine. The engine was created especially for trips to Mars, which are right around the corner now.
With their formidable new rocket, SpaceX have designed things so that methane and liquid oxygen will be employed to act as propellants so future astronauts will be able to make the journey to Mars, and then once there, take resources which have been harvested to make the journey safely back to Earth, as Inverse reported.
Elon Musk recently stated on Twitter that the plan is to first create one 200 metric ton thrust engine, which would be used for the ship and booster, but that versions after this would be markedly different.
“Initially making one 200 metric ton thrust engine common across ship & booster to reach the moon as fast as possible. Next versions will split to vacuum-optimized (380+ sec Isp) & sea-level thrust optimized (~250 ton).”
With the ship utilizing seven engines, the booster will be using even more, with a whopping 31 engines. Musk has stated that the crew will “probably fly with fewer initially in case it blows up,” which is no doubt an excellent idea and will save many engines in the beginning if there are any mishaps that occur.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 1, 2019
Plans for the Raptor engine of the Mars-bound SpaceX Starship were first announced back in 2008, and were created as a change from the other Merlin engines, which have been used to power both the Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9.
Because these engines are so much older, they were created using rocket propellant and liquid oxygen which, while certainly suitable for many things, would not be good for heading to Mars and then having to refuel later on.
And to help with refueling, Elon Musk has previously suggested that there really needs to be propeller plants for the Raptor, which would ideally be located on different planets. These planets would help humans to become an interplanetary species, who could more easily travel from one planet to another.
The stunning new stainless steel design for the SpaceX Starship should help to stave off any heat damage through transpiration cooling, and Musk has stated that he is “confident that a stainless steel ship will be lighter than advanced aluminum or carbon fiber, because of strength to weight vs temperature & reduced need for heat shielding.” Elon Musk also noted that “the ship must be easy to repair on the moon and Mars.”
While SpaceX have not set any dates in stone yet, it would appear from Elon Musk’s posts that the Starship will be performing “hop tests” fairly soon now.