SpaceX prepares to test engine that will send mankind to Mars

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

SpaceX is one step closer to realizing its goal of sending human explorers to Mars. The privately funded space company this week sent its next-generation rocket engine, codenamed Raptor, to a Texas facility for testing.

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell made the announcement at the Small Satellite Conference in Utah according to Ars Technica. A spokesperson for the space flight company also confirmed the news after the conference.

As the publication notes, the Raptor engine could be as much as three times more powerful than the Merlin engines that currently power SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and upcoming Falcon Heavy rockets. Details are scarce although founder Elon Musk has said that the Raptor could have a trust of around 500,000 pounds which puts it in roughly the same category as a main engine on a space shuttle.

Unlike the shuttle, however, that uses three main engines and two booster rockets, a future Mars Colonial Transporter would likely be powered by nine Raptor engines.

SpaceX could send an unmanned vehicle to Mars as early as 2018 with humans heading to the Red Planet as early as 2024.

Musk is expected to reveal more details regarding SpaceX’s plans to put a colony on Mars at the International Astronautical Conference which takes place in Guadalajara, Mexico, from September 26 through the 30th.

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TechSpot Addict
These are the 1st stage specifications for the Moon going Saturn V rocket:

First stage - S-IC

Length 138.0 ft (42.1 m)
Diameter 33.0 ft (10.1 m)
Empty mass 287,000 lb (130,000 kg)
Gross mass 5,040,000 lb (2,290,000 kg)
Engines 5 Rocketdyne F-1
Thrust 7,648,000 lbf (34,020 kN) sea level
Specific impulse 263 seconds (2.58 km/s) sea level
Burn time 165 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX

Take particular note of the thrust measurement of 7,648,000 lbf. If we divide that number by 500,000, we get an answer of a little over 15! Which, if Musk is correct, (sorta doubtful), it would take 15 1/3 Raptor engines just to get to the moon.

Then too, I expect Musk will have to piss away tons of US government and investors money "perfecting", how to make his Mars booster, "reusable".
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TS Enthusiast
Find a new method of thrust. This is just not working. How about a engine placed in orbit, then fuel put in orbit. connect the two and blast off from there.


TechSpot Addict
Farewell, Mr. Musk...
And you think he's got the ballz to go along with the mission, why exactly? He'll still be here self promoting, if and when, that flight takes place.

After all, he's not stupid enough to have the Martian polar caps nuked, then try and drink the water himself.


TechSpot Addict
Find a new method of thrust. This is just not working. How about a engine placed in orbit, then fuel put in orbit. connect the two and blast off from there.
Don't be silly, the largest weight in booster stages IS the fuel. So you'd need a more fuel to put the fuel into orbit in the first place. (*)

Plus, you can't exactly compress oxygen into a liquid in a vacuum, now can you? So, you can't make that in space, you need an atmosphere.

(*) Granted you'd need less power on each individual mission to put fuel in orbit, but I can't see whereas it would be more cost effective. Then you'd also need space "infrastructure" to assemble a ship in space. I doubt if the ISS is up to that task as of yet.
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TS Evangelist
9 engines.

That is a 9x multiplication to %chance of failure for every single electrical and mechanical component. NASA learned early on that multiple engines are a bad idea, and you want to minimize that. Just ask the Soviets how their large engine count launch vehicles faired (hint: they liked to explode).
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